Community garden growing in Cleveland

April 23, 2018 GMT

Squash plants are budding and tiny green tomatoes are emerging at Cleveland’s community garden on the 200 block of S. Fenner St. The only thing not growing at the moment is community participation, according to Ladd Hight with Texas AgriLife Extension Service in Liberty.

“So far it has just been me and Janet Hopkins, a master gardener from the Cleveland area, working on the garden,” Hight said. “We have a lot of space to expand the garden but due to the lack of turnout, we only have five beds right now. If we are successful and can get more participation, then there is another lot here we can use as well.”

The community garden project is funded through Texas AgriLife’s Better Living for Texans under a program called Growing and Nourishing Healthy Communities. The program teaches people how to grow their own foods in raised beds and containers with a goal of improving nutrition by increasing fruit and vegetable intake. As participants work on the gardens, they also get physical exercise, which also improves their overall health.

Cleveland’s community garden is located next to the Covenant With Christ building on Fenner Street. The lot being used for the garden and a second adjacent lot are both owned by the church, which also operates a food bank and resale shop. Christine Shippey is the director of Covenant With Christ.

The food being grown in the community garden, at least the bulk of it, will eventually be distributed to families at the food bank, according to Shippey. If the garden is expanded to both lots and participation grows, the bounty will be shared throughout the community.

“The community garden gives people access to locally grown food and vegetables who might not have had it otherwise. It also teaches gardening skills and gets people out in the sunshine. It brings us together as a community, as a neighborhood. I am hoping the program only continues to grow,” Shippey said.

The five raised garden beds are laid out with a variety of tomatoes, peppers, radishes, peas, squashes and herbs. Companion plants, such as marigolds, give each bed a splash of yellow color while also discouraging harmful pests.

Anyone interested in helping with the community garden is asked to contact Ladd Hight at ladd.hight@ag.tamu.edu or 936-334-3230.