SPRINGFIELD, NJ - This summer at the Springfield Public Library, kids can let their curiosity sprout with a new garden.

Visitors to the building will notice the group of planting boxes, known as the Lettuce Read and Grow Garden, laid out in the corner outside near the back entrance. TAPinto Springfield reached out to head children's librarian Brie Mintz to learn more about the program.

Mintz said that she had been planning for the garden since about March and that she met with master gardener Althea Llewellyn, and read some articles and a book about children’s gardening and the need for outdoor play.

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"I thought a children’s garden would be an amazing way to encourage not only library use but diversify the programs we'd be offering in the summer," Mintz said. "Not only would it get the children away from a screen, it might spark a lifelong love of gardening or plants.

This summer the library is growing okra, tomatoes, eggplant and other veggies, alongside herbs such as thyme and chives. Mintz said the library is using a method called Square Foot Gardening that lets them maximize the space in the beds and grow a variety of produce, herbs and even flowers.

Mintz said that the library was receptive to starting the garden for a variety of reasons, which include bringing children into their library community and the community of Springfield. It gives the library a chance to invite community leaders to come work alongside the kids on the watering, weeding and tending of the beds, Mintz said.

The second benefit, according to Mintz is that the garden will hopefully serve as a way to encourage the importance of taking care of the environment and outdoor play. "Play in any form is essential for childhood development," Mintz said, as she noted gardening will help enhance sensory development, responsibility, patience and more in the children working on the garden.

Finally, Mintz noted the garden would provide a great avenue for kids to socialize and meet their future classmates.

"We have loved watching them learn to work together as we planted and watered during our first sessions," Mintz said. "So many amazing conversations have happened over a mutual like or dislike of a veggie we’re planting, or what the plan for the club meeting is that morning, and it’s so sweet to see how much the kids love working together to make this garden bloom."

Once the idea was in place, Mintz applied for a successfully received a Union County Means Green Grant, given by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders. She noted the library is also working alongside Groundworks Elizabeth on the community garden.

For Mintz, the garden is just one facet of the many things she has looked to do as a children's librarian in Springfield.

"When I first came to the library [last June] my goal was to implement unique, fun and educational programs in a variety of different interests," Mintz said. "It is my hope that this garden will enrich the children’s lives by giving them a unique creative outlet and become a summer tradition at the library."

She continued, adding, "Studies show that gardening can build happier, healthier children, and I hope that this garden will encourage outside play away from a screen and show them how much fun playing outside can be.

"I also hope it encourages children to read books about the plants and foods we’re growing and shows them that the library is an amazing place to explore new interests and hobbies."