Friends: Heathcote Botanical Garden’s Community Garden
Photos by Nan and Adina
Heathcote Botanical Garden recently decided to create a community garden. I was fortunate to be at the first meeting about a year ago, and I was able to get involved with this project at the beginning. This community garden is currently focused on growing for a Sarah’s Kitchen in Port Saint Lucie, and a food pantry in Fort Pierce. It has two garden areas right now, and a 5 bin composting set up as well as a large leaf fence area for any overflow of organic materials we may collect. The Children’s Garden managed by Nan Billings is next to the community garden location in the Botanical garden, and Nan has lent her time and expertise to the community garden project as well as funneling a good deal of the harvest from the Children’s Garden to Sarah’s Kitchen.
Much of the garden is fallow now. We are growing a couple of rows of black eye peas, a row of long beans (on our new fence), some okra, jalapeno peppers, and eggplant. Last fall thru spring we grew broccoli, kohlrabi, carrots, radishes, onions, lettuce, arugula, mustard greens, yu chuy sum, chard, potatoes, beets, bush beans, pole beans, and a few tomatoes.
Although one of the garden areas was tilled when it began last fall we are now practicing the no till style of growing I write about in this blog, and volunteers in this garden learn how to grow the no till way.
Volunteers are welcome at the community garden. It is nice to discover that even hard work is really fun when there is a group of people participating. We have a few hard core volunteers that show up every Monday morning to work in the community garden, and when we have a special project we ask the botanical garden to put out a call and we get a larger group of volunteers, and then we get lots of work done quickly. Most recently we erected a fence around the garden areas. We were able to buy the fencing materials from donations we have received, and when we went to Lowes to buy the fencing supplies Lowes also made a donation to help stretch our dollar value there.
We are always scrounging around to find organic materials for our compost piles, and any leaf, straw or moldy hay donations we can get we are glad for. S&S Takeout in Fort Pierce drops off their kitchen vegetable wastes for our compost piles, so we are constantly working to find more carbonaceous wastes to balance out the nitrogen kick we get from those kitchen wastes.
This community garden project teaches participants how to compost, and how to grow vegetables various ways without turning or tilling the soil. They also learn how and when to plant seeds, and how and when to harvest. We don’t use any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, or herbicides on the community garden, and we do not grow any GMO crops there. We like to grow heirloom seeds, and if organic seed is available we choose that first. We do depend on donations, so when seed donations come in we use them as long as they are not GMO (genetically modified organisms). The cooperative extension for St. Lucie county donated a great deal of the seed we planted last fall. Other seeds we planted were donated from my seed collections, including the okra, beans, black eye peas and eggplant we are growing this summer.
Although the Botanical Garden is closed on Mondays volunteers to the community garden are welcome. The west gate on Savannah Road is open so that volunteers can drive right in, and there is a great shady oak to park beneath.