Sarasota, Florida: Community Gardening is Growing in Florida.
- Subject: [cg] Sarasota, Florida: Community Gardening is Growing in Florida.
- From: Adam36055@aol.com
- Date: Sun, 3 Apr 2005 21:26:07 EDT
A few years past, this listserve used to get queries about Florida Community
Gardens, and alot of folks were scratching their heads to think of any we
could forward folks to. Now, there are more and more community gardens being
started in Florida - an ideal place, like California for multi-season community
This article is even more happy evidence of a growing good in that state.
Clinton Community Garden
Article published Mar 26, 2005 - Sarasota Herald Tribune.
Plots with happy endings
By Mark Zaloudek
Avis Zaborowski figures she and her husband save $20 a week on their grocery
bill. Ruth Eberle finds that the sunshine and fresh air lift her spirits. And
Neil Thomas says his pet iguana loves the fresh cilantro.
Count them among the hundreds of Southwest Florida residents who have
discovered the rewards of community gardening, where vacant lots have been
transformed into mini-vegetable farms and flower gardens.
Amid the high-rises and shopping venues going up in downtown Sarasota, green
peppers and celery are sprouting up, too, just a few blocks from the city's
bustling Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.
An overgrown eyesore at Sixth Street and Central Avenue has blossomed into
the Rosemary District Garden, a city-owned lot where two dozen individuals and
families this spring are harvesting carrots, green beans, sugar snap peas,
eggplant and other edibles.
In coming months they expect to pick tomatoes, green peppers, beets and much
more for their dinner table and to share with friends and neighbors.
"My garden was a real pretty garden, but right now it's almost empty because
I pulled up almost everything," says Neil Thomas, a former construction worker
forced into early retirement by a disability.
His 10- by 20-foot plot has produced more mustard and collard greens than he
needs, so he shares his harvests with some of his neighbors in a federally
subsidized high-rise for low-income residents just a few blocks from the
"Look at that eggplant!" Avis Zaborowski says as she shows off the immature,
purple vegetables the size of baseballs.
"And these here are Asian eggplant," she says, moving down the row to reveal
something resembling purple zucchini.
The Rosemary District Garden is one of four in Sarasota County. The Bayou
Oaks Garden at Old Bradenton Road and 35th Street is also on the county's north
side. Laurel Park Garden and Nokomis Park Garden are in mid-county.
"We have two north county sites and two in south county. Now we need to look
toward the east," said Dee Cissel, who oversees the community garden program
for the Cooperative Extension Service of Sarasota County.
Manatee and Charlotte counties haven't set aside any land for community
gardens, but Manatee officials are considering establishing one on a portion of the
former Geraldson Farms in Palma Sola.
Residents sign up for space to plant their gardens, and it's not uncommon for
some community gardens to have waiting lists.
In addition to Sarasota officials providing the land, the green-thumbers
receive helpful advice from local master gardeners. The mentors are trained by the
Cooperative Extension Service, a statewide educational resource developed by
the University of Florida to assist homeowners.
Even novices learn to grow bountiful produce alongside coaches Gail Harvey
and Barbara Powell Harris, two of the master gardeners at the Rosemary community
Ruth Eberle, who rides her bike to the Rosemary plot, didn't know much about
vegetable gardening when she started in January. But now she uses terms such
as "companion planting" to maximize the use of her small garden.
"The radishes will grow faster, and by the time they're pulled, the zucchini
will have more room to spread," she says of the vegetables planted side by
While hauling mulch by wheelbarrow may seem like drudgery to most gardeners,
Eberle didn't seem to mind.
"This makes me feel so much better. I was really feeling down in the dumps
(before I started gardening). I can testify to the benefits of working in
nature," she said on a recent cool March morning.
Zaborowski has learned how to adapt her Pennsylvania gardening skills to the
Sunbelt to harvest a steady crop.
She and her husband enjoy juicing carrots and some of the other vegetables
they grow. Others will end up as main dishes or side dishes.
"Everything is so flavorful. I think that's what I like about it (organic
gardening) the best," she said.
"Right now, most of my meals are vegetables with a little meat, because
they're so good -- and I was never a vegetable person."
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