Tampa Heights Community Garden Staked Out
Volunteers are preparing a lot for a new community garden that will supply residents and charity with fresh food.
One day, drivers approaching the overhead ramp from Interstate 275 onto eastbound Interstate 4 will see a lush oasis of flowers and vegetables outside their passenger side windows.
The grassy strip that runs alongside I-275, just south of Palm Avenue, was recently staked out to become the new Tampa Heights Community Garden.
In collaboration with the Metropolitan Ministries, the Tampa Heights Civic Association, and the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association, the Tampa Garden Club is in the planning stages of developing the new community garden. It will be located at 605 E. Frances Ave., two blocks south of Columbus Drive, on the west side of I-275.
"The piece of land we're going to use is going to be oh so spectacular," said Kitty Wallace, community gardens chairperson for the Tampa Garden Club.
The goal of the garden is to provide vegetables to people with limited access to fresh produce and to assist organizations feeding the homeless, Wallace said.
The lot is approximately 16,800 square feet and receives full sun most of the day. The land is part of the area that is reserved for the Tampa Heights Greenway and was purchased by Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) when planning for the next expansion for I-275. The property is maintained by the City of Tampa through an agreement with FDOT, which is allowing the land to be used for the community garden.
Over the last year, volunteers gathered donations for the project, tools and gardening books.
"We had so much fun over the summer going to people's homes to collect donations," Wallace said. "We're trying to be resourceful and knowledgeable partners in this Tampa Heights project."
Organizers have defined several spaces on the lot. Individual plots costing $35 per year will be 4 x 8 feet, using raised beds. In addition, there will be communal garden spaces of 16 x 20 feet and a shaded area in the center covered by a pergola. In addition, the butterfly flower garden will have seating, and residents will have use of a tool shed and compost station.
Another goal was for the garden is to bring together young and old in appreciation of growing food.
The youth at the new Tampa Heights Youth Development and Community Center, which is undergoing a major renovation immediately north of the garden, will work with senior citizens in gardening and will sell vegetables to raise funds for youth programs.
The garden also will supply fresh produce to feed the homeless served by Metropolitan Ministries. The charity will have an entire section for crops destined for its kitchen.
"This will offer additional tools of independence to their clients for when the day comes that they have a home of their own," Wallace said. "They will have the tools and ability to plant their own gardens."
While there isn't much to see on the lot in the way of crops being planted right now, it won't be long before the land becomes a breadbasket for the neighborhood, she said.
"We understand that starting a community garden is just baby steps," Wallace said. "But by the end of the garden's fifth year, it should be well established and visible from the Interstate. It will be beautiful."