Growing a Community by Planting Seeds

It isn't often that you get to be a part of something very special.  Recently the Troy-Bilt Saturday6 team had the opportunity to visit a place in need of some help to grow the community, the Perrine Community in Florida. Together with the other 5 Saturday6 members, the Troy-Bilt team, and the Keep American Beautiful organization we put together a community garden to start the seeds that would help to grow a community.  The Perrine community is a very urban area on the southern side of Miami, FL. From the new community garden it's easy to see stores that are closed and a state of disrepair around the area but the local community is making strong strides toward changing things for the better. Two brothers in the community who own the barber shop and the dry cleaner businesses provided us with the lot to install the community garden.  Without the support of local businesses it is extremely hard to get projects like this started and without local community leaders it would be impossible to maintain.  Fortunately the garden is in great hands with Mrs. Townsend (she's not a relative but does have a great name!) and Sheila (a local master gardener).

The garden is situated on a bed of rock (limestone) which made tilling into the soil pretty much impossible. Instead we went with one of my favorite gardening techniques: raised beds!  The raised beds we built were made from concrete blocks. Concrete blocks work nicely to hold the soil in and don't rot away like wooden beds would eventually. Raised beds with concrete blocks can be easily put together without any special tools.  We constructed 4 beds in all with dimensions of 4'x8' and 4' pathways in between.

Matt Mattus of Growing with Plants sets the line using a measuring tape and landscaping paint.

Here Steve of The Rainforest Garden adjusts blocks for the raised bed.

Underneath each bed we laid cardboard down to prevent weeds from coming up and through into the garden area.  The cardboard will eventually breakdown but not until the grass and weeds have been smothered.

Amy of Get Busy Gardening  is mixing the compost into the soil with cultivator.

We filled the beds with a mixture of soil and compost then planted with all sorts of plants from tomatoes and peppers to collards and beans.

Helen of Gardening with Confidence, Matt, and Barbara from Troy-Bilt are planting strawberries and companion plants.

Noelle of AZ Plant Lady is putting in a tomato plant.

I have to admit that it felt really nice to be planting tomatoes in February! It would have been even better to eat a fresh one though...

We also incorporated some companion planting techniques into the garden. Companion planting is the method of using plants to defend and improve the growth of other plants. One good example of this is basil and tomatoes. Basil defends against insects and improves the flavor of tomatoes nearby. The strong scent of the basil prevents insects from locating the tomato plants. Marigolds were planted near the garden as well. They help to repel insects but also prevent damage from nematodes in the soil. (And they look pretty good too!)

I am thrilled to have been a part of planting this community garden. I hope that the garden continues to grow and serves as one little seed that will help grow a larger sense community for Perrine.

I would also like to thank Troy-Bilt for flying us all to Florida to escape the cold and help us get a little of our gardening fix.  It was great to see my fellow Saturday6 blogger friends again! Troy-Bilt will also be sending a product to test and one to give away on Growing The Home Garden to one lucky reader! 

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