A few wooden 2-by-12s and some soil can go a long way. Just ask Hillcrest Forest resident Earl White who planted a small herb and vegetable garden on the side of his house, enlisting the help of neighborhood children. “It makes me happy to see all the young kids,” he says. “It puts them to work. They feel productive.” White has been living on the west end of Midbury for 38 years, watching the street evolve through three generations of families. “The neighborhood is very social,” he says. “We keep our little cul-de-sac busy.” So, it wasn’t long before White’s garden idea caught on with two other neighbors.

It all began last year while his wife underwent cancer treatment. White visited her every day but needed a distraction. “It was an outlet for me,” he says. “I had been thinking of starting a garden anyhow.” He built two, 12-foot containers, filled them with dirt, installed a watering system, and started planting one of everything. But that didn’t work out too well. His okra plant grew a few feet with only one small okra pod on top. “You could make barely a cup of gumbo out of that,” White says. “You learn as you go.” So he started planting several of each seed — strawberries, watermelons, green peppers and tomatoes; basil, mint, chives and parsley. But while life was sprouting from White’s garden, his wife was losing her battle with cancer. She died last August, and he had to adjust to life alone after 37 years of marriage.

Today, he has the company of neighborhood kids, like Josh next door, who helps rake leaves and plants some of his very own fruits and veggies. White has room to expand the garden, and plans to involve more children by sectioning off patches just for them. A lot has changed since the Whites moved into the neighborhood more than three decades ago. “We were the young kids on the block,” he says. “Now, I’m the grandpa.”

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