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Local Group Visits Nearby Community Gardens

Temple Terrace residents interested in starting a community garden got a first-hand look at other group gardens in the area.

Members of a group interested in starting a visited the Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights community gardens Saturday to better understand the challenges and joys of community gardening.

They went at the invitation of Robin Milcowitz, of Seminole Heights Community Garden, and Kitty Wallace, of Tampa Heights Community Garden, who met with the at .

The group traveled to Seminole Heights in the morning to talk with Annalisa Khaw, garden coordinator for crop implementation. Khaw explained that the garden is located on private property. The group maintains a lease agreement with the owner.

New Seminole Heights Community gardeners are asked to sign an informal letter accepting the garden’s operational guidelines. One important area of agreement is that everyone will employ organic gardening practices; members are offered organic seeds from garden coordinators.

When members arrive, they are asked to sign in and review the running list of tasks that need to be completed that day. Many members choose to work on Saturdays, but the garden is open and available to members throughout the week.

There is no water source at the site; a Water Committee is tasked with ensuring that water is brought to the site and/or captured in rain barrels. Currently, there are between eight and 12 core gardeners with 40 more who participate less frequently. The annual fee for an individual plot is $25, and participating in a communal plot is $35.

In the afternoon, the Temple Terrace group met at the Tampa Heights Community Garden for a tour with members Kathy Echevarria and Vivian Salaga.

Echevarria is also a member of the Tampa Garden Club and provided a wealth of information about all the work involved in establishing and maintaining the garden. Martha Sherman, a USF architectural student, designed the plan used to create the garden.

The Tampa Heights Community site is located next to Interstate 275 on property owned by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). In existence for only two months, the group worked for 11 years to secure the support of the city of Tampa and Department of Transportation.

“The land is owned by DOT and maintained by the City of Tampa under an inter-government agreement that was amended to allow us to use the property for the garden,” Wallace said.

Now, thanks to the groundwork of this group, anyone can create a community garden in the city of Tampa without burdensome permitting fees.

There are 32 active Tampa Heights Community gardeners with 20 more waiting for an open garden spot. Metropolitan Ministries, the Mayor’s Youth Council and the Tampa Heights Youth Group all have plots in the garden.

Tampa Heights gardeners pay $35 for individual small beds or $25 annually to participate in larger beds. Home Depot provided a $2,500 grant for supplies and the tool shed. The garden is hooked into city water and pays a water bill. A donor along with the city parks department provided the very attractive fencing around the garden. Seventy University of Tampa student volunteers built the raised beds. Irrigation is battery operated.

Bob the Gardener with the University of Florida Extension Service has attended garden “breakfasts” and reviewed individual gardens and offered tips. The UF extension office offered a course at the garden on composting and water irrigation. All participants who successfully complete the irrigation course receive a free aboveground irrigation kit from the extension office.

The Temple Terrace Community Garden group plans to meet at this Saturday (Nov. 26) at 11 a.m. to look at a garden on the property established by Cathy Givarz, of the Temple Terrace Garden Club.

Anyone interested in attending a meeting of the Temple Terrace Community Garden group should visit the Facebook page for information and to join the discussion. Ideas for a local community garden can also be left in the comments section of this story. Those who don’t have a Facebook account can send a request to receive information and meeting notices to elizabeth@raintreewriting.com.

Steven McBride November 23, 2011 at 09:02 PM
Thanks for the great article, Elizabeth. I hope it will inspire more people to join in starting a community garden for Temple Terrace.
Elizabeth A. Leib November 24, 2011 at 03:23 AM
Thanks Steven - me too!

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