Matthew Sargent is busy planning for his spring crop at the Ochs 4-H Educational Center.
"Successful gardening is hard work,'' said Matthew, 9, as he, his mother and eight of his fellow 4-H Ochs Garden Club members weed in preparation for their new seedlings.
At the garden site, a 10-acre property off Hamlin Boulevard, youngsters experience firsthand the trials and tribulations of Florida gardening.
They delight in carrying home their successful harvest. They stress when frosts hit.
"I was very scared I was going to lose some plants, but we knew to put blankets over them,'' said Matthew, a homeschooled student.
February marks the halfway point on the 4-H calendar year, according to 4-H agent Jeanne Rogalsky, who oversees the program.
"This is the time you can easily see both parts of our program — how well our fall garden did, as well as the planting of the spring garden,'' Rogalsky said.
Three days a week, junior gardeners work side by side with their parents, digging holes, clearing weeds and composting.
In preparation for the upcoming planting, the kids selected what vegetables they wanted to include in their 10- by 12-foot plot. Pinellas County Extension's volunteer master gardeners and Rogalsky provide instruction on the new garden's design, the planting and maintaining of the garden.
After the youth spend an hour in the garden, they gather in the Honey House. The building got its name from the years it served as Chester Ochs place of business. Ochs, the original owner of the land was a citrus farmer who also sold honey, Rogalsky said.
Emily Vines, 13, president of the 4-H Ochs Garden Club, leads the group in saying the organization's 100-year-old 4-H pledge and the pledge of allegiance. The youngsters review current goings-on of the organization, eat cupcakes and chit-chat.
Emily sees her post as president as an opportunity.
"I've been coming here for two years, and I'm learning leadership, along with learning gardening. We also have the opportunity like going to the state fair,'' she said.