The garden celebrates its first year

Although really it took more than a year to get this garden started.  That's just how long we've had the land.  People began talking about the idea in the community in February of '07 and Green Florida was created in November of that year to serve as the organizational backbone for the project.  It took nearly six months to negotiate a lease for the property and get a nod from the city. The much-beloved community gardening activist Adam Hongiman from New York City always said that community gardening was 50% gardening and 100% politics. He was right.  Starting a community garden takes tenacity, hard work and patience.

But think about it this way, it's not so different from the amount of time the typical family spends debating the fine points of their future garden before actually getting to work on it.  My partner and I drew diagrams for our big sandy yard at our house at least six different ways over two years before actually starting to grow vegetables for ourselves.  We debated in-ground vs. raised beds, learned how to start seedlings, researched rain catch systems (for now we just catch our dishwater in a dishpan), and brought all manner of random of scrap lumber we found to the yard for the project before starting.

It took time, but the garden is finally growing now, as is the Bartlett Park Community Garden.  The community garden has 44 vegetable garden plots for members, a cool drip irrigation system, and free community workshops on gardening for anyone who wants to attend.  You can find us every Saturday from 9:00 am -12:00 at the garden - 1443 Highland Street South.

Come celebrate getting the garden up and growing this weekend with a party Saturday night, Feb 28th at 7:30 pm called Root/Cause.  We'll have food, music from the fantastic local bands Nessie, The Sheaks, The Turncoat, and Pink Orange Red.  We'll have a silent auction with wonderful pieces by Zen Glass and other local artists.  Best of all, the whole thing is outdoors at Twigs and Leaves, at 1013 MLK Street South in St Pete, a gorgeous Florida native plant nursery near downtown.  Make a donation you can afford at the door, large or small, towards our fund to buy the land and have a great time.  You really won't want to miss it.

It's hard work starting up a community garden. Here in Bartlett Park we're so proud that our garden is one year old this weekend.  For twelve months, more than a hundred volunteers have hauled dirt, mulch, water, compost, plants, food, chairs, fencing, pvc pipes and friends out to 1443 Highland Street South in St Petersburg to take a vacant lot from bare to bountiful, from scary to sublime, from dangerous to delicious.

We were guided by visions of fresh tomatoes, homemade pesto, beans and collard greens, as well as cookouts and gardening workshops. The concrete, garbage and weeds were all cleared with the intention of creating a beautiful space in the midst of a neighborhood that's seen a lot of hard times. We've worked every single Saturday for a year. You can check out Lara Cerri's cool photo montage about the garden in the St Pete Times here to see some of the action. [Editor's Note: And check out the garden's Creative Loafing Best of the Bay award here.]

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