"It is one of the oldest programs at Descanso Gardens," said Gatti. "Each school is allocated a plot, some have more than one if they have more than one class, and, once a week throughout the year, they come and work on it."
The students choose what they want to plant, and most of the plots include a colorful mix of flowers, vegetables and herbs, Gatti said. The seeds are donated and all the gardening tools and supplies are given to the students for free, she said.
Each class is encouraged to tend to their garden, whether it be weeding or watering, and to take part in nature-themed craft activities and games. They can also work in the greenhouse or get their hands dirty in the compost bins, she said.
"This is like therapy for me," said Gatti, who has been involved in the program for the past two years. "It's so calming and beautiful here."
There are plans to create a meditation corner, with a stone water feature, and to rebuild the kitchen facilities so that the students can eat the produce they have grown and learn the value of nutrition as well, she said. They also hope to create a market garden so that they can sell their produce to the gardens' café.
Exciting possibilities seem to blossom as the garden grows, said Peggy Powell, who has been a devoted volunteer in the program for the past nine years.
"I've seen an amazing development in the children," said Powell. "Their self-confidence just grows in leaps and bounds. It's a real joy to see them have a new interest in life and to realize all these abilities they simply didn't know they had."
They also learn important life skills, like how to cooperate with other people and handle responsibility, said Senen Lopez, a teacher from Tobinworld, a school for special needs students in Glendale, who took his class for their regular gardening session on Friday morning.
"It's an enriching experience for them," Lopez said.
WHAT: Earth Day
WHERE: Descanso Gardens, 1418 Descanso Drive, La Cañada Flintridge
WHEN: Saturday, April 22. The Harvest Garden will be open from 10 a.m. till noon. It is located on the east side of the gardens and can be accessed directly from the parking lot.