A Summer of Building

Noah, one of our summer volunteers, and I plucked two ripe figs from our Brown Turkey fig tree, tore them open to see the glistening pink and white flesh, and then popped them, still warm from the sun, into our mouths. If you’ve had a fig this way, there is simply no comparison to those from the grocery store. Perhaps part of the joy is the surroundings, that indefinable “fig” smell of the fig leaves and fruits, and the satisfaction of looking around our newly cleaned-up food forest area.  

We’ve had a busy summer so far fixing things, tidying up areas of the garden that haven’t seen enough attention over the past few years, and building the infrastructure that we need for what we expect to be our busiest and most production season yet. 

Here’s a little of what we’ve been doing

Mending fences. Our executive director Chris worked with Charles from Parkway United Methodist mending fences around the property, many of which had been damaged since Hurricane Irma. This is a critical step forward in securing the property for the safety of our teens, our community gardeners, visitors, volunteers, and staff. Gates to the garden are now open only when TFF or Parkway staff are on the property. Visitors and walkers are welcome — just come during our open hours.

Tidying up the food forest. With our GrowCity Youth back in the month of June to complete their Spring session (split up over the week into groups of 4 or 5 teens each), we’ve been able to make a lot of progress. They’ve weeded, mulched, trimmed back branches that were encroaching on the fruit trees, and redefined many of the garden paths that had all but disappeared. Even in the shade, it was hot work. 

Expanding plantings

  • Growing our pineapple field from about a dozen plants to nearly 100, with Pepe’s expert assistance. (It’s been a great year for our pineapple harvest, as well!)
  • Creating another new area for bananas and renewing our existing banana circles (Pepe, again).
  • Expanding lemongrass plantings to cover a dry, weedy, hilly space where we’d not previously been successful in growing anything. The planting is thriving. 
  • Lots of propagation of existing fruits, herbs, and other plants, for planting later in the summer and fall — great lessons in starting cuttings, divisions, and air layering with our adult interns and GrowCity Youth! 
  • And this week, planting sweet potatoes for fall harvest. Our GrowCity teens took cuttings, potted them up in the nursery for a week to start roots, prepared the rows, mulched and laid drip tape, and planted the cuttings they had started.  

And then there are the big projects

Amazing volunteers (and roommates) Noah and Julian brought their power tools and devoted several days to rebuilding the community plots with new, taller, wooden raised beds with lumber donated by our local Home Depot store. It’s a sight to see, and with more of our community gardeners caring for their plots, we are also seeing more happy plants growing than usual at this point in the year. 

Our big project for the month of July is building a new seedling nursery. As many of you already know, our original hoop-house nursery no longer receives enough sunlight for efficient seed-starting due to the fast growth of the many Australian pine trees nearly. After talking to a few of our local arborists, it was determined that trying to cut down — or even cut back — these huge trees was not really an option at this time, so we made the decision to build a new, slightly larger seedling nursery closer to the community plots, where it will receive sunlight all day. (Many thanks to the Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation for making the new nursery possible.)

The old hoop-house still has an important role to play. Now that we’ve cleared out the entire space we plan to use it as a nice gathering/seating space that will take advantage of its pleasant, shaded location. (At least once we are able to “gather together” again.) Chris, Noah, Julian, and Pastor Jim from Parkway United Methodist removed all of the old, rotted wood from the back of the church’s storage shed and refaced it with new lumber, painted it white, and we’re hoping to soon have a garden-oriented mural there. Our few still-usable nursery tables have been moved to a temporary summer nursery under the little hoop-house in our West Rows, where they are nearly filled with our summer’s propagation projects — pots of mint started from cuttings from many different varieties, oreganos, marjoram, rosemary, lavender, pigeon pea seedlings, luffa squash, air-layered mulberry trees, passion fruit, malabar spinach, and more. 

As we head into July, we’ve got a lot yet to do, but we’ve made a lot of progress. It doesn’t seem possible, but in not much more than a month we’ll be starting seeds for a new CSA season of veggies, greens, and herbs. We hope you’ll join us in whatever fashion suits you best — as a CSA subscriber, volunteer, intern, community gardener, GrowCity teen, or garden supporter/donor. 

If you haven’t been out to see the garden for a while, come visit and see what we’ve been doing! (Summer open hours: 9 a.m. to noon every day except Thursday and Sunday.) 

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