When I bought my townhouse eight years ago, my mother looked at the uneven patio that I was pondering how to fix and said, “Why don’t you turn it into a garden? We could plant some herbs that you can cook with.”

So we unearthed all of patio stones, turned over the terrible clay-like soil underneath, bought many heavy bags of good soil, and started planting. We also fixed up the small garden between the bushes in the front of my house that had gotten overgrown. It was hard work, the kind that leaves you sore for days, and I loved it.

I loved it so much that the following year I tore out a patch of grass on the side of my house to create a third garden, which I could use to focus on growing my own veggies. There is nothing more rewarding than cooking a meal from food I grew. It totally makes up for the days spent getting roasted by the sun and stabbed by the sticker weeds that still haven’t gotten the memo to stay out of my garden. Actually, I even find weeding cathartic. If I’ve had a rough day, it’s great to put on my headphones, cue up some hardcore songs on my iPod, and rip those weeds out by the roots.

I know I’m not the only Forest Parker with the gardening bug because Sarah Beth Warshauer, an adult services librarian at the Forest Park Public Library, tells me that their gardening books “fly off the shelves.” For this reason-and because it’s a great tie-in with their increased appearances at the Forest Park Farmer’s Market-the library has decided to offer more gardening programming.

The first event is “Learn to Compost” on Tuesday, June 12, at 7 pm, and the second is “Gardening With Kids” on Thursday, July 12, at 7 pm. Both classes will be taught by Debbie Kong, who Sarah Beth calls “a perfect fit” because she is so knowledgeable, involved in the Forest Park community, and a regular library patron.

Debbie certainly has an incredible list of credentials. She gardens year-round in her backyard, is a board member of the Forest Park Community Garden, an Advance Master Gardener, Master Composter, and Junior Master Gardener Specialist certified to teach Farm to School. She also teaches classes and mentors gardeners at St. John’s in Forest Park.

I still consider myself a novice, so I’m looking forward to learning from Debbie. I’ve already signed up for her composting class. As Debbie explains, “Composting is a great way to reduce waste that would otherwise go to a landfill. Organic waste is the third largest category of landfill waste in Cook County at 21.3%. What an impact we could make if each of us could recycle!” Another selling point is that composting organic materials provides you with free mulch for your garden. Since I’m still struggling to make my soil as nutrient-rich as possible, I’m eager to learn about this environmentally-friendly money-saver.

Debbie’s eleven year-old daughter, who she affectionately refers to as “Little Green Girl” has been learning to garden alongside Debbie for the past three years and will be helping to teach the “Gardening with Kids” class. Since “kids can relate to kids,” Debbie believes this will be a hit.

“Gardening can be a nice family pastime and the health benefits of being outdoors and getting a little exercise are important,” Debbie says and I couldn’t agree more. It’s my favorite thing to do with my mom – even though we are a little bit older than Little Green Girl and Debbie!