It’s a perfect bit of symbolism: As the plants grow at The Guild’s community garden, so do the skills and abilities of the student gardeners.

Several different classes tend to the garden, where flowers (petunias and begonias), fruits (tomatoes and pumpkins), vegetables (peppers, French beans and peas) and herbs (basil, parsley) are all thriving due to the students’ efforts and help from a rainy spring.

The Guild’s move from Waltham to its more spacious location with additional outdoor space in Concord three years ago allowed for the expansion of the gardening program.

Under the supervision of Henry Nsubuga, a
Vocational Services job coach with a bachelor’s degree of science in agriculture, the students perform a number of important tasks: planting, weeding, transplanting and watering. The students begin by planting the seeds in small pots to germinate, then transplant them to bigger pots before finally moving them into the garden.

“Our students tend to be at their best while doing hands-on work,” Henry explains. “This gives students a place they can practice and later apply those skills in home or community-based gardens.”

Joseph, whose mother has a garden, enjoys two specific gardening tasks. “I like planting and pulling out the weeds,” he reports. His favorite plants? The tomatoes.

As the fruits and vegetables in the garden ripen, they will be served for lunch at The Guild and at the residences. “It’s a way to teach the students how food gets to the table,” Henry says.

Tending to the garden promotes project-based learning, provides vocational training and offers a relaxing outdoor respite supporting overall well-being and mental health, according to Susan Hayes, The Guild’s behavioral services manager.

“I view working in the garden as a cross-disciplinary exercise that enriches our school environment and provides opportunities the students might not otherwise have,” Susan says.

The students who demonstrate interest in gardening will have the opportunity to further their skills this summer at
Gaining Ground, a nearby non-profit organic farm that is a Guild community work partner. Guild students are among the thousands of Gaining Ground volunteers who grow fresh food annually for area meal programs and food pantries.