It’s not too late to start your summer garden. If you’ve ever considered growing your own food, now’s the perfect moment to see if you’ve got a green thumb.
One of the many trends to take off, thanks to prolonged isolation, has brought folks around the world back to their roots.
People are learning to make bread. They’re taking up baking and needlepoint. Woodworking projects are on the rise and art supplies are sold out nearly everywhere you turn. Part of this cultural renaissance has led people back to the soil and gardens are becoming a hot commodity once more. The Plant City Commons Community Garden, one of the greatest hidden gems in town, has seen an uptick in memberships as more residents have an itch to get planting.
Adjacent to HCC off of Park Road, the garden has something for everyone. You can isolate while soaking in nature by strolling among its many trails. You can go bird watching or survey the unique plant life in the area. And you can become a member of PCCCG and get a plot of your own.
“We have room to build more and we operate now with the mindset of if you come, we will build it for you,” Community Gardens President Karen Elizabeth said. “We just filled two plots and built them, and we have plans now for 10 more. I still have the space for 30 more beds. Anyone is welcome to get a tour and get some information anytime they want. Lately I’ve been here pretty much every morning and I’m always there on Saturday mornings, so those interested are welcome to swing by.”
The benefits of gardening are endless. An unexpected result from spending time cultivating plants is it can actually improve your health. A 2013 study in the American Journal of Public Health found those who participated in a community gardening program had a much lower BMI (body mass index) than their otherwise similar neighbors. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommend gardening for 30 to 45 minutes to help lower blood pressure.
Though a few of the plots at the garden have flowers planted, the majority are filled with fruits, vegetables and herbs. Those who grow them tend to incorporate them into their meals and thus eat healthier than if they had gone to the grocery store, as they are less likely to pick up the same quantity of produce.
Gardening has also been directly tied to stress relief. A variety of case studies have indicated those who garden benefit from having a sense of control over this little slice of life. They spend time with their minds turned off helping their plants flourish in fresh air and a calming setting.
While all of these advantages are available if you create a small garden at home, Elizabeth touched on one of the most underrated benefits of participating in a community garden instead.
“What’s great is, even if you’re just getting started and you really don’t know what you’re doing, there’s always other people around tending their own plots that you can talk to,” Elizabeth said. “Everyone has their own tips or tricks and advice. You’ll never really be on your own because you’ll be surrounded by people that have been doing this for years and they’ll all happily help if you come to them for advice. It’s in the name, really. We’re a community garden, so we have that sense of community here.”
PCCCG memberships operate via the calendar year and are $35 annually. That fee includes your bed — which is approximately 35 square feet — soil and irrigation. The irrigation means those with busy schedules don’t have to stress about getting out to their plot every single day. They come when they’re free and their plants are fine.
The garden also has aquaponics and hydroponic programs at the location and plans to have demonstrations once things return back to normal.
Elizabeth said for those who want to start a summer garden of their own, Florida’s climate is something to heavily consider when you pick out plants. Okra, black eyed peas, sweet potatoes, basil, rosemary and peppers all do well in the heat. Even if you’re new to gardening, she recommends you give it a go.
“I think part of that is it’s just naturally exciting to see nature at work and to be a part of that process,” Elizabeth said. “Having flowers is one thing, but walking out and finding a new cucumber growing and things of that nature is pretty exciting to people. I think we want to nurture something. I think it’s just a natural human response to want to be caring for something that’s kind of vulnerable like our food. There’s also something important that happens when you get connected to the earth. You feel that moment. Your whole mood changes. And you get that for free. You get a packet of seeds and plant them and care for them and before you know it you’re picking the things they’ve grown. Its something that once you start, you’ll probably never stop. You’ll be surprised at how much you love it.”
If you want to get involved with the garden stop by and visit or call or text Elizabeth at 813-435-8111. You can also email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.