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Extension Service, YMCA partner in gardening

Extension Service and YMCA staff and students gather to christen new gardening partnership.

The community will soon benefit from a $17,000 Gulf Coast Rural Conservation and Development grant that helped create a dozen chances for raised-bed gardens on the campus of the Greater Brewton Area YMCA.
Ken Kelley, Escambia County Extension agent, said the grant covered the cost of creating the box-type gardens for education of gardening for students at the YMCA as well as members of the community.
“Our purpose is to educate the public and that’s what these gardens will do,” Kelly said. “The grant has paid for all the materials, tools and storage for the equipment that will be used at the YMCA site.”
Vivian Layton, director of programs and childcare at the YMCA, said two plots would be used specifically for students.
“We will have a box for the preschool and one for the summer camp students,” Layton said. “The students will learn the phases of gardening and be able to see the gardens produce.”
Kelly said starter plants and seeds will be provided and boxes will be ready for planting this week.
“We will be providing some of the initial plantings for the boxes but those who lay claim to the boxes will be able to add their own plants to the space,” Kelly said. “It will be up to each individual to care for and maintain the plants in each space.”
Layton said the YMCA will oversee the use of the garden spaces used by the public.
“Anyone, members or non-members of the YMCA, will be able to lease the spaces,” Layton said. “The spaces will be leased for $20 per season. A spring and a fall season will be available. Everything will be done on a first-come, first-served basis and we will also have a waiting list. Each person will be responsible for their own space or they can donate the spot back to the YMCA and our students will take care of the plantings in that space.”
Layton said the reason for the public leasing plan for the spots is to allow more members of the community a chance to learn about gardening and reap the benefits of a garden.
“This will allow people to have ‘ownership’ of their own garden,” Layton said. “It’s a chance to teach children and adults to the benefits of fresh produce and the joy of gardening.”
Layton said spaces can be relinquished at any time for any reason.
“Some people may have trouble keeping up with their garden space,” Layton said. “The owner can let us know they have a problem and we can pass the space on to the next person on the waiting list.”
Kelly said gardeners won’t have to worry about much of the upkeep — simply weed and enjoy the harvest.
“This grant has taken care of everything right down to the irrigation,” Kelley said. “We will have drip irrigation in place to take care of keeping the soil moist. We have had the soil to be used in the space donated by GE&C Organics in Castleberry. Once everything is in place, all people have to do to have a little garden is show up and claim their space.”
Layton said those interested in leasing one of the ten garden spots available through the new program may call the YMCA offices and make arrangements for their spot.
Gulf Cost RC&D serves Escambia, Baldwin and Mobile counties and has awarded grants for community gardens and other projects throughout the Brewton area as well as other communities in their service area.