The Community Garden That Could – And Did!

Harnessing the Power of UNITY to Build A Community Garden

Written by nanaroyer4 Comments

Editor’s Note: These organic gardeners illustrate one of the greatest aspects of sustainable living… community!  The St. Augustine Beach Community Garden didn’t just expand their garden – they united a community to overcome every obstacle in bringing their dream into reality.  We’re proud to share their success story.

St. Aug Community Garden photo 1The St. Augustine Beach Community Garden (an organic garden) had a home about two blocks from the ocean on the corner of A Street and Second Avenue last year.  City fathers (and mothers) had authorized the use of one of its plazas for a community garden, as we had proposed.It was thriving both in vegetable production and member camaraderie. What was lacking, however, was the buy in of two of the nearby neighbors to the idea of a community garden across the street.  After several contentious months, the City of St Augustine Beach agreed to carry out and finance moving the garden to an alternate site at Ron Parker Memorial Recreational Park, a few blocks northwest of its original site.
St. Augustine Beach Community Garden photo 2Our goal was to be planting our seeds by March 1st of 2013.  So once again we began the work of building the infrastructure of the garden.The land was cleared by the City of St. Augustine Beach and the move begun just over one month ago (Feb. 15).  An artesian well was installed by Kevin Lohr of H2O Water Systems, who had installed the well at our first location.
photo3Even before the well installation was complete, garden members were already hard at work installing irrigation.Southern Horticulture Nursery generously donated their trench digger and an operator.
photo4Garden members did the rest.We had applied for and received a grant from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs; thus this grant is paying for the lion’s share of our current expenses.
photo5University of St Augustine students pitched in to help move the garden boxes into place, thus saving at least a couple backbreaking hours.
photo6Garden boxes were aligned according to the plan of Dennis Collins, Treasurer of the Board of Directors, and the garden’s designer.Soil in the background was delivered from the former garden site by the City of St Augustine Beach. St Johns County Roads Department also delivered a large mound of soil for us. Mulch was delivered gratis by garden advocate Eddie Conlon of Tree Medic Services.
photo7Horse manure was retrieved by garden volunteers with pickup trucks from a local horse farm, as well as purchasing the delivery of two loads from the St. Augustine stables. 

Members worked to lay down weed-inhibiting cardboard, garden soil, horse manure, and organic fertilizer.

photo8We quickly filled our 39 available garden beds (including 5 communal beds) and started “phase II” of the garden by building ten more 11.5’ x 4.5’ boxes. These were immediately claimed and planted, for a total of 49 garden boxes.We also built 8 perimeter boxes which run along the west end of the fence to hold climbing vines which attract pollinators.
photo9As of March 22, we have 48 garden box members and 20 affiliate members (who participate in the garden but do not have their own garden box).It has been just over a month since we were able to physically make the move to our new location, including expansion to include many new members. Like the Phoenix, we have indeed risen from the ashes of controversy and have met our short term goal of having plants in the ground in March of 2013. We have not only survived, we are thriving!

 

If desired, the affiliate members may plant vegetables or flowers in the perimeter boxes, along with the vining plants.

photo10We view the garden as having a large educational component, with members free to experiment with various plants and planting methods. 

Here a member is experimenting with an asparagus bed, asparagus not being well adapted to Florida, but we’ll learn how he does.

photo11Others are being very creative in their structures which will support climbing vegetables, including this bamboo structure.Members of the broader community have already begun to come by to view the garden and to ask questions like, “I want to have a raised bed at my house—what do you use for your soil?”
photo12“The Three Sisters” is an educational demo garden. This relates to a Native American practice in which the three sisters—corn, beans, squash—are planted together and synergistically thrive both in the garden as well as nutritionally in the body. 

We intend to launch a children’s garden using the lesson plans from Wings, Worms, and Wonder, an educational book written by local author Kelly Johnson.

 

Our first community-wide informational workshop will be held April 9th, in cooperation with the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. Two of our members will be presenting “Working with Nature to Minimize Pest Damage and Maximize Your Harvest.”

photo13Upon completion of the first of two compost bins, we launched our compost-making system, using green and brown materials found on site, members’ kitchen scraps, horse manure and garden soil. This compost plays a major role in helping make the garden sustainable as we will be able to continually enhance the quality of the soil. 

We will be starting a vermiculture system (worm farm) as soon as one of our members completes the construction of the worm box, which will double as a bench for that occasional need to stop and rest.

 

 

By nanaroyer

Organic gardening, community gardens hiking, kayaking, being outdoors, photography

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