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Free class for kids teaches organic gardening

Staff Photo: John Bohn David Bomberger, 8, left, and his sister Emily Bomberger, 5, of Buford, plant sweet peppers during a children's organic gardening class taught by Master Gardeners at the Lanier Community Garden in Buford on each Wednesday.

Staff Photo: John Bohn David Bomberger, 8, left, and his sister Emily Bomberger, 5, of Buford, plant sweet peppers during a children's organic gardening class taught by Master Gardeners at the Lanier Community Garden in Buford on each Wednesday.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn A children's organic gardening class is taught by Master Gardeners Rosalie Tubre, left, and Winnie White, second from left, at the Lanier Community Garden in Buford on each Wednesday.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn A black swallowtail butterfly visits a children's organic gardening class at the Lanier Community Garden in Buford on Wednesday. The organic gardens attract several types of butterflies.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn Rosalie Tubre, right places carrot seeds in the hand of Annie Tubre, 10, of Suwanee, during a children's organic gardening class taught by Master Gardeners at the Lanier Community Garden in Buford. Also planting are Jane Ballar, 12, of Buford, second from left, and Shea Ballar, 9, second from right.

BUFORD -- Eight-year-old David Bomberger has discovered something new about himself: he loves gardening.

The process is "interesting," said Bomberger, who spends Wednesday mornings unearthing the magic of it all: the seeds that sprout, emerging from soil, the beautiful flowers that will bloom in coming weeks and finally the delicious fruits and veggies.

He and sister Emily, 5, are members of a brand-new organic gardening class for children being taught by two master gardeners who live in Suwanee. The free course aims to teach kindergarten through fifth-graders about growing fruits, vegetables and flowers by following the principles of organic agriculture in soil building and conservation, pest management and heirloom preservation.

Chantal -- David and Emily's mother -- said the class has benefited not only her children, but the whole family. In fact, she's gleaned some information from the kids that she's putting to use at her own garden plot, which is located several hundred feet away.

"I'm not much of a gardener myself," Chantal said. "I'm pretty new at this, but I'm enjoying learning what they've been learning. They pass it right along to me."

The Lanier Community Garden, located on Buford Dam Road next to the Lanier Water Filter Plant, is made up of 81 different plots belonging to groups and families such as the Bombergers. One of the gardens -- brightly painted, professionally landscaped -- is designated for the children's organic gardening class taught by Rosalie Tubre and Winnie White, local master gardeners.

The current president of Lanier Community Garden, Tubre has in the past enjoyed teaching children about organic gardening at nearby schools.

"We had this one plot that had been neglected by two previous gardeners, and it was in pretty bad shape," Tubre said. "I began to clean it up, because I don't like having an awful mess here in the community garden."

Added Tubre: "I thought, 'Why not open this plot to the kids of Gwinnett County?'"

She got the community garden board's permission to start up the organic children's garden, applied for a grant through the Gwinnett Master Gardeners and brought volunteers together to paint, prepare and get soil ready for the plot.

The yellow, pink and blue raised beds now house the seeds of cucumbers, tomatoes, marigolds, dill, cotton, cantaloupe, radishes, carrots and more. In coming weeks, the tiny sprouts will emerge from the soil much to the children's excitement.

"I'm able to teach the kids a lot of neat tricks," Tubre said. "There are ways to avoid having to spray chemicals on anything. Chemicals are not good for the environment, and they're not good for humans or pets."

Added Tubre: "Even the adults, they come to the class and listen in. They say: 'Oh, I didn't know that.' Everybody benefits from this."

Lawrenceville resident Donna Donohue said that's true. She and her daughter, Lily, 12, attend the course on Wednesdays.

"It's a good chance for her to have something that belongs to her and other kids," Donohue said. "She loves it."

Including Lily, there are currently six students enrolled in the program, but Tubre said she hopes to fill the class soon. There are 14 spots left open, and all children who live in Gwinnett County are eligible to attend the course. Those interested should send her an e-mail at rotubre@yahoo.com.

White said she enjoys helping teach the class: "To see their enthusiasm and to be able to show them that there's a healthier way of gardening ... it's incredible."

David Bomberger said he hopes to "keep learning new things" about organic gardening. He's enjoyed "seeing how everything grows and all the colors of the garden."

And mom, Chantal, said she'll keep learning lessons as her kids learn.

White said there's nothing wrong with that.

"You never stop learning with a garden," White said. "It's an ongoing learning experience, whether you're a child or an adult."