This story originally appeared in a local paper produced by The Boerne Star. The text and images are mine.
Tucked into the Dominion development in NW Bexar County is a tiny “victory garden” tended by an enthusiastic boy named Raj Mulwani.
“I love my garden,” the youngster says, pointing out his sage, mint, and cherry tomato plants.
Now 6, Raj has tended his raised-bed garden since the age of 3.
“His sister, Bella, picked up a packet of seeds from The Dinner Garden,” says Alma Mulwani, Raj’s mother. “We went to a demo garden event that they hosted. I really thought that she’d be the one to garden, since she was older. But it was Raj who fell for gardening.”
Born smaller than average at birth, Raj is intellectually disabled.
“We wanted something, an activity or hobby, for him that would be his own… something that he’d be able to grow and manage by himself. We didn’t anticipate he’d fall for gardening. Bella helps him, but this is definitely his project,” says Alma.
“I water the garden myself and add the mulch myself,” says Raj, beaming.
“Whenever he finds a seed, he puts it in the soil,” says Alma. “We’ve been amazed by what he’s been able to get to grow.”
Recently, Raj branched out his interest into growing red wriggler worms and harvesting the compost. As his interest in gardening has grown, so has his family’s environment in a local 4-H club.
“We host the Dominion 4-H group at our house, “says Alma.
With the help of San Antonio’s climate, Raj maintains an herb garden year ‘round. This past spring, he successfully grew lettuce and cabbage. He’s begun to collect and save seeds, too, for his own garden and to share with others.
“When we harvest something from the garden, like the lettuce that he grew, we use them in meals. When he eats what he’s grown, you can tell that he has such a sense of pride in his accomplishment,” says Alma.
Formerly a student at Leon Springs Elementary, Raj will enroll at Aue this fall.
“I am so impressed with Raj and his gardening,” says Kathy Dodge-Clay, Leon Springs Elementary principal. “The victory garden is a natural way to motivate and engage children in relevant learning. Raj has learned great lessons from working in his garden that are far more motivating than what he might ever learn from a book. Hands-on learning experiences are the best and trump any other kind of learning. I believe children learn best by doing and this is a perfect example of learning that extends far beyond the classroom and textbooks.”
Holly Hirshberg, founder of The Dinner Garden—an award-winning national non-profit based in San Antonio, says that she appreciates the positive impact her organization has had on Raj.
“I love it that Raj, at 6 years old, has already seen how he can use his garden to really make a difference in this world. Not only is Raj’s garden feeding his family and community, but he is saving seeds so other people can learn to feed their families, too. That is what The Dinner Garden philosophy is all about. We are honored that Raj is gardening with us.”
• Think you’d like to teach your kids to garden this fall? Be sure to check out the best garden board on Pinterest, Vegetable Garden Bloggers United.