Giving Garden seeks volunteers for spring, summer seasons

Friday, April 20, 2018
Even with the recent freezing temperatures, the Berryville Community Center’s Giving Garden is sprouting new life. Activities Director Renee Allison uncovers rows of strawberries whose tiny blooms had to be protected with bed sheets to survive a recent 28-degree night.
Photo by Tavi Ellis/Carroll County News

The Giving Garden is beginning its spring season, and volunteers are needed to help tend it.

Renée Allison, aquatic and program manager for the Berryville Community Center (BCC), said several crops are already in the ground, including three beds of strawberries, potatoes and lettuce. Berryville High School’s agriculture classes and a group of Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) students have some tomatoes and cucumbers growing in the school’s greenhouse as well, she said.

“We have a full schedule of produce that I’m hopeful we’ll get to,” Allison said. “Some springtime crops, like onions, we need to get in the ground pretty quick. Then we’ll go into some summertime crops like okra.”

She said they also plan to have two beds of pumpkins.

“I hear they can be a little hard,” she said. “My vision would be to have a fall festival where we can come to the garden and do jack-o’-lanterns.”

This year, Allison said volunteers will be trying the square foot gardening method.

“Sue Davis is a Master Gardener, and she has given us guidance on that method,” she said. “We have a book we’re reading diligently. You can put like nine green bean plants in one square foot, which will not leave room for weeds to grow hopefully and will also amp up production.”

Allison continued, “Sue has done it for years and loves it. We’re maximizing our bed space as well. We’re going to do melons along the sides of the beds, and we’re trying to do some different varieties of crops.”

She said they also plan to plant some marigolds and yarrow to serve as natural insect deterrents.

Allison said BCC is in need of volunteers at the moment.

“We do work with the Carroll County Senior Activity and Wellness Center on the garden,” she said, “but the biggest struggle has been getting a calendar developed as far as when we do plants and a schedule of volunteers.”

The Carroll County Cooperative Extension has also been helpful, Allison said.

“They did our soil testing again this year,” she said, “and Tamara Allen has been out to the garden and used fresh produce for cooking demonstrations. The kids loved her visit.”

She said Berryville’s EAST students are currently developing possible logos for the Giving Garden.

“We would like to put that out to the community as well and see what the pick for the Giving Garden logo is,” Allison said. “I need to organize that and take suggestions for a month or so and then have people decide which they like best.”

She said the kids enrolled in BCC’s Summer Youth Program (SYP) will be helping in the Giving Garden again this summer.

“They did a really good job last year, and I think a lot of them enjoyed it,” Allison said. “My counselors were pretty new at it, too, so we didn’t get all the bug inspections and things done like we were supposed to. This year, I’ve rearranged my swimming lesson schedule to where I can be out in the garden in the mornings and then go out to the pool.”

She said SYP begins on May 29 and runs for 11 weeks.

Allison said she encourages area seniors to volunteer at the garden and share some of their knowledge and tips with the other volunteers.

“I would love for volunteers from the senior community to help because I am definitely not a master gardener,” she said, laughing.

Allison said the Giving Garden could also use hand tools, shovels and wheelbarrows if anyone in the area has any gardening tools to donate.

“If someone has a shed they could donate, that would also be great,” she said. “If we could lock things up down here, it would be so much easier. There’s plenty of room for a shed.”

Ultimately, Allison said the BCC staff is trying to get more of the community involved since the Giving Garden serves the community.

“We’ve been blessed to be able to develop this space,” she said, “but it is a community effort that we’re trying to get going.”

Allison said produce from the Giving Garden goes to Meals on Wheels, the senior center, the summer youth program and Loaves and Fishes Food Bank of the Ozarks.

“The Giving Garden reaches everybody in the county, not just in the city limits of Berryville,” she said. “As we develop, we want to invite everybody into this community garden because the Meals on Wheels program reaches everybody in the county. The fresh food grown here goes back into our community.”

Anyone interested in volunteering at the Giving Garden or donating gardening tools can call the Berryville Community Center at 870-423-3139.

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