By Helen Penland
What a true labor of love! Planting season has begun at the Miramar Community Garden (MCG)! The garden’s planting season is generally tied to the school year calendar, from September (or before) through May of the following year. But, some plants grow throughout the entire year and of course, they need tending. Elsi Rose, Development and Capital Management Coordinator, manages all the garden activities, from planning to harvesting; she has been its guardian since its inception in May 2010.
As many residents of Miramar already know, the MCG was built with donations from corporate sponsors. The funds started the original 3,150-square foot garden. According to their official website, they received a $60k grant from GRO1000 Gardens and Green Spaces by the U.S. Conference of Mayors and Scotts Miracle-Gro Company in 2014. The garden grew! To a very nice 7,000-square foot area! It is now home for a butterfly garden, fruit grove, and much, much more!
All work in the garden is done by volunteers. Official members include 20 dedicated people that have a variety of talents, four master gardeners, and one chef. Ms. Rose wants to stress: members do NOT need to be residents! Anyone can sign up to be a member at the web address at the end of the article. To date, member-volunteers have logged in excess of 19,000 service hours since May 2010. Approximately 20 events are organized by the members each year. According to Ms. Rose, members join for a variety of reasons. Some join for their love of gardening, some for educational purposes, some for community service hours, and more.
MCG is the first “micro farming system” in the county. It provides many opportunities to the community, members, and volunteers by offering a social network for gardening lovers, educational information for volunteers to learn about urban agricultural businesses, a chance for vocational training, and also for service hours (mentioned above). Most importantly, it promotes learning how to grow organic, healthy, natural fruits and veggies in “your very own backyard.”
The MCG’s Fact Sheet lists many of the components of the garden. They include, but are not limited to:
Planting season starts with all the planning and preparation you may imagine. The planning stage begins with assigning members as garden “Row Captains.” One member, or “Row Captain,” is assigned to maintain and direct volunteers for a single row. Each row grows selected garden plants, fruits, and vegetables. However, before that begins, supplies are gathered, from fertilizer and manure to mulch and seeds for planting. Every member is requested to volunteer two hours of what they refer to as “sweat equity” per week. Most donate much more time.
Each 3rd Saturday of the month, MCG holds a Volunteer Day at the Garden. Volunteers are needed for monthly projects including tidying up the garden and any other special, ongoing projects. They meet from 8:00am – 10:30am at the garden. It’s a great opportunity for clean air, solid physical but rewarding activity, and area improvement. They also hold a monthly garden general meeting at the Fairway Community Building to coordinate and organize monthly activities and events. Be sure to check their website garden calendar for dates each month. The meeting is open to the public.
The MCG members work hand in hand with many schools and other organizations. They work very closely with Jason Fairway Elementary School, adjacent to the garden, and other schools throughout Miramar. They also gain volunteers from colleges, corporations who hold volunteer days, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and many more.
Currently the Miramar Community Garden volunteers are planning Garden Markets on upcoming Saturday mornings where people will be able to choose and harvest their preferred crops. Organic practices will be taught and discussed. The Market Garden includes crops such as dragon fruit, sugar cane, pineapples, lettuce, and kale. The garden boasts one Master Gardener and Row Captain who is an expert tomato gardener; the garden grows approximately 42 varieties of tomatoes!
The harvesting season presents many opportunities for special events such as Earth Day’s Disco Soup that was held in April of this year. We’ll have much more information in future issues!
Our City Miramar has been unable to reach Ms. Rose post Hurricane Irma. We hope there was minimal damage to the garden and all is well.
Look for more news in future issues of Our City Miramar.
To become a member (you do not need to be a resident) or volunteer, please go to the Miramar Community Garden official website at http://www.miramarfl.gov/501/Community-Garden. There are links to the calendar, membership, and a special link for growing tomatoes. You may also contact them via phone at 954-602-3264, Monday – Thursday 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. Miramar Community Garden is located in Fairway Park at 3700 Largo Drive.