A group of local Girl Scouts going for Silver Awards, the highest honor a Cadette can achieve, were all on the same page when it came time to get to work.
The Plant City Commons Community Garden is now better for the people and pollinators using it thanks to their decision to focus all of their projects on improving life at the East Cherry Street garden across from Hillsborough Community College. It was a follow-up of sorts to several years of working in the garden for MLK Day of Service efforts and a way to give back to one of Plant City’s hidden gems.
“They came out here to do service on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day about three years ago and were really inspired by this location,” Troop 30889 co-leader Amy Southworth said. “So when it was time to do their Silver project, they all wanted to give back to the gardens.”
Mary Beth Southworth and Victoria Wantlin teamed up to build a new home for bees after an existing bee habitat was beaten up by weather over time. The two scouts spent roughly a year on the project between studying what works best for the bees and then building the bee house, and it was finally installed in late July 2020.
“We did a lot of research about what was poisonous to the bees so we wouldn’t use that,” Mary Beth Southworth said. “The colors that we chose were because those colors attract bees more than others. The overall structure worked better than others because it was easier to access and stuff like that.”
Their bee house also has a cool feature for teachers: it comes with a built-in lesson plan teachers can use to help students learn about bees and how they help their local ecosystems thrive.
Hannah Stead, Eva Lovvorn and Aslynn Maher were inspired by the Little Free Libraries all over Plant City and communities around the country, so they built one of their own for the gardens.
“While enjoying this garden, you might want to read a book about gardening because you might not know how,” Stead said. “So we wanted to put it near the gazebo where you can sit and enjoy the garden while reading a gardening book or whatever books people put in there.”
As an added bonus, part of it is also reserved for seeds. Whether you want to find something to plant yourself or you wish to pay it forward by leaving some of your own seeds in the Little Free Library, a container within keeps the seeds safe until they’re ready to be taken out and used.
“We just thought it would be a good addition to add to the gardens,” Lovvorn said. “It wasn’t something that was too small or too big — it was just easy to do.”
This project was started in May 2020 with help from 84 Lumber and was installed a month or so later.
Melia Paat saw an opportunity to get creative with up cycled materials and created two pieces of art to display near the garden’s gazebo. Using old, discarded and unused items she either found or got from family, friends and troop leaders, she built a dragonfly and a bumblebee out of materials like gardening tools, bottle caps and a bowling pin. Her idea was to enrich the natural visuals of the garden with an artistic touch and create an even more peaceful atmosphere near an area where many people go to relax.
“I personally took some unwanted items from family friends,” Paat said. “It allowed me to get quite a few items I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I also had donations from troop leaders of things collecting dust in their garages. I went in with a couple ideas of what I wanted, but as I found what materials I was using, I ended up going with a dragonfly and a bumblebee.”
Paat also made a video advertising the gardens with plenty of information about how Girl Scouts can earn their badges there.
The Plant City Commons Community Garden is located at 2001 E. Cherry St. Visit plantcitycommunitygarden.com for upcoming events and more information.