Saturday, October 1, 2011

Community Garden Workday: Garden at Jackson Square and Sulzbacher Community Garden

"Many hands make light work."
- John Heywood

Two community gardens located on the same property in San Marco, The Garden at Jackson Square and the Sulzbacher Center Community Garden, had a Garden Work Day today. Gardeners, both new and old, alongside volunteers from all over showed up and powered through a long list of housekeeping items.

What is it like to go to a Community Garden Work Day? It's amazing. Here's the kind of people you might meet. This particular workday had as workers:
  • A group of young adults who work with Americorps
  • A group of students from Mandarin High School
  • A group of families from the newly immigrated Burmese community living at Danese Court
  • A doctor from Baptist Primary Care Deerpark
  • A master gardener
  • A farmer
  • A property developer
  • The home team of community gardeners for Jackson Square
  • Two fabulous garden administrators - Dee Dee Miller for the Garden at Jackson Square and Megan Riggs for the Sulzbacher Center Community Garden
  • And a whole lot more that I sadly never got to meet because I was actually working instead of talking (everyone will tell you that I talk A LOT)
  • Oh! And me, of course!

Why do Community Gardens have Work Days? The simple answer is that they are large growing spaces and need periodic maintenance.  Over the summer in Florida, many community gardens get a little shaggy. The heat of summer makes weeds grow like crazy and makes it hard for gardeners to stay in the garden long enough to tend crops AND beat the jungle back from the perimeter. 

So as the days cool, fall is a great time to round up a crew and reclaim the garden for the gardeners. It's a great time to socialize as a group and meet new people. It's a great time to learn about gardening. Now is the time that we are getting our fall/winter gardens planted, so there is lots of gardening talk going on while the rakes and shovels and wheelbarrows are moving.

The goals of today were:
  • Enlarge the garden. 7 new plots were added; each approximately 15' by 15'. 3 of the plots were already spoken for by new gardeners who were working there today and a 4th was snapped up late in the afternoon by a couple whose curiosity drew them in to find out what in the world was going on.  Enlarging this garden is quite a feat - this particular wide open field used to be occupied by a car dealership, concrete from one end to the other, and the soil is still full of bricks, chunks of concrete and rocks large and small. The soil has to cleared by hand and only then can any equipment be used to cultivate it. The large group of workers meant that an area approximately 100' by 20' was cleared in the course of about 3 hours. Heavy farm equipment finished the job. 
  • Those rocks found a home defining a wide, welcoming entrance to the garden itself. The 10' wide path was then filled with asphalt grindings which will be compacted over time.
  • Another team tidied and cleaned up the composting area and the manure area so that it was no longer overgrown and was once again accessible and manageable.
  • And yet another team built a 12'by 12' shade structure for use by visitors, gardeners, volunteers and the groups of children who come to the garden on a monthly basis. There is no other shade in this garden, so this shade structure was neccesary for health and safety as well as comfort.
  • Meanwhile the whole area was mown and edged.  
I climbed to the top of a ladder and tried to use my camera to get a bird's eye view of the garden at the end of the day. It was gorgeous to my eye. I hope that comes through in the pictures.

How do you feel after a Community Garden Work Day? Well, I am sitting here fresh from the shower (a very refreshing shower) with a dead sexy farmer's tan/sunburn and feeling the very pleasant fatigue of a day of work that was productive, worthwhile and heartfelt. I met a great group of people who I will hopefully get to work with again soon.  I shared seeds, answered gardening questions and made arrangements to ferry extra cucumber starts from one gardener to another gardener who really needs them.  I handed out my card to a group of young adults and told them that anytime they'd like to do this again, I'd find them a garden to help.  I worked hard and I helped people who want to grow food.  I loved it.

And best of all, there are 4 families in Jacksonville who became Community Gardeners today. Welcome to the Garden at Jackson Square!

Click here to contact The Garden at Jackson Square 
Click here to contact Sulzbacher Center Community Garden   

If your garden is planning a workday, you need to let us know. Friends of Northeast Florida Community Gardens wants to help.

If you've just had a workday (Berry Good Farms, this means you!), you need to do a writeup about it.  We want to see pictures. The public really does want to know what is going on in community gardening.  Many people want to find out more and it's up to us to tell them!

Community Gardeners need Community Help.  If your community doesn't know you need the help, they cannot give it. So write it up, add it to this website, become a contributor, email it to us. We'll help you get the word out.