Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Community Garden Blooms with Enthusiasm, Nurturing; Spots Have Filled Up in a Flowery Patch That Spurs Socialization

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Community Garden Blooms with Enthusiasm, Nurturing; Spots Have Filled Up in a Flowery Patch That Spurs Socialization

Article excerpt

Byline: GORDON JACKSON

ST. MARYS -- A dazzling display of flowers obscures the real reason John King meticulously plucks weeds and grass from a community garden near the St. Marys Airport.

While they are aesthetically pleasing, King planted the flowers as a natural way to repel insects and animals that might eat the squash, tomatoes, corn and other vegetables he harvests from the plat.

Other gardeners have followed King's practice of planting flowers, while others have erected scarecrows.

King, a retired literature professor, also has a garden at his St. Marys home. But he enjoys tending crops in the community garden because of the people he has met since it was created on city property last year.

"Public places are disappearing," he said. "The thing that interests me is it connects people. I have met people here from everywhere."

The garden was originally planned as an activity for the city's seniors program, said Greg Bird, a St. Marys councilman. But so many residents expressed interest in the garden, city officials decided to allow anyone to plant crops there.

"Each person gets a 20-foot-by-20-foot plot of land that they can lay out anyway they want," Bird said. "We were full this year and may have to expand next year."

Bird used his tractor and a plow to turn the soil and remove tree stumps and other obstructions before planting began. This year, the garden was fertilized with 25,000 pounds of compost, donated by White Oak Plantation in Yulee. The Camden County Farm Bureau also donated many of the seeds planted and 4,000 pounds of lime to raise the pH level of the soil.

J.R. Jones, president of the county Farm Bureau, said community gardens are rare in the region, especially in counties where the main type of agriculture is timber. …

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