A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to build a community garden in Miami, FL with my friends from Troy-Bilt and the Saturday6 team of garden bloggers. To say I was excited about this opportunity would be an understatement. I have never gardened in another state before, and I have never gardened outside in February. The icing on the cake was that I would get to build a community garden with a group of extremely talented gardeners. Can you see why I was so excited?
Before I tell you about this wonderful community garden project, let me first introduce the Saturday6 team. From left to right, in the bottom row is Noelle Johnson who blogs at AZ Plant Lady, Matt Mattus from Growing With Plants, Helen Yoest of Gardening With Confidence and Steve Asbell from The Rainforest Gardener. Top row: Dave Townsend from Growing The Home Garden, and… well, you already know me.
The Troy-Bilt Saturday6 is a group of garden bloggers that Troy-Bilt put together from around the country. Throughout the year, we will be testing and reviewing Troy-Bilt products, sharing our gardening knowledge in the Troy-Bilt newsletter The Dirt, making how-to videos, and sharing tips and ideas via Twitter and Facebook. This is our second year as a team, so meeting up in Miami was a fun reunion. Read about our Saturday6 team adventures from last year.
Ok, now for the deets on the community garden. Troy-Bilt is a huge supporter of Keep America Beautiful, and we built this community garden for the Perrine Neighborhood of Miami. We all got to help plan the garden in advance; there were plenty of emails flying around in the weeks before our trip, adding to the excitement. Troy-Bilt also worked closely with representatives from the community to make sure we planted the crops that were on their wish list. Troy-Built supplied all the equipment, tools and resources that we needed to build the garden – cool right?
When we showed up at the garden site, everything was there waiting for us to build the garden. It was awesome. The community was very excited that we were building a garden for them, and we had several people stop by to say hi and take photos. The community members even talked about their plans for maintaining the garden, and distributing the food to the community. All the right ingredients for a successful, long-term community garden.
For this project, we had to build raised beds. Originally, we planned to till up the grass and plant the garden in the soil. But in the end, we had to do raised beds because the ground was hard coral and limestone. Yah, good luck tilling that…
Raised beds become a necessity in cases like this, when the soil is really rocky, full of tree roots, or otherwise difficult to cultivate. Building raised beds will add extra cost to the project, but you can keep the budget in check by buying inexpensive materials, or reusing items you already have – and cinder blocks are the perfect choice. Cinder blocks are also easy to work with, and can be installed right over grass or weeds, making this a quick DIY project that can be completed in an afternoon.
Since we were only going one level deep with the block, and building it right over the grass, we put down a thick layer of cardboard first to smother the grass and keep it from growing into the beds.
The cinder blocks also make wonderful planters for flowers and herbs which double as companion plants, deterring pests and attracting beneficial pollinators to the garden. Marigolds are a great border flower in any vegetable garden, and our top choice. We also chose to use alyssum, and once it’s established it will cascade over the side and help to soften the look of the concrete block.
We had enough space and materials to build four raised beds, and we planted a variety of food and flowers in each. Tomatoes, beans, peppers, basil, rosemary, parsley, onions, strawberries, and some leafy greens to name a few. I can’t wait to see what these look like when they fill in, they promised to send us pictures.
It was such a fun day, and it felt so good to give something back to the community (and to dig in the dirt in February!). We were all very inspired by this project, and left feeling a sense of accomplishment.