Gardeners working the beds at the Unity Park & Community Gardens pulled and picked more than 5,000 pounds of produce last year, and much of that was donated to the community.
Garden Coordinator David Horn said production at the Community Gardens in 2021 totaled 5,137 pounds of produce. Gardeners grew 2,996 pounds in the private beds, 1,164 pounds in the Community Share beds, and 977 pounds in the demonstration beds. For reference, gardeners grew 3,960 pounds in 2019.
"Much of the produce was donated to Yokefellow, the Soup Kitchen, Helping Hands, and other outreach organizations," Horn said. "A lot of gardeners also shared their harvests with friends and family."
In fact, the gardeners donated just over 3,000 pounds of the fruits and veggies produced last year, which is about 60% of all the produce from all the beds.
"That amount of community sharing and caring is amazing," Horn said.
Last year's harvest included a lot of staples: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, okra, beans, peas, greens, cantaloupes, watermelons, blueberries, garlic, ginger, sweet potatoes, and more. A local beekeeper pulled about 80 pounds of honey off the hives at the garden. The bees help pollinate all the plants, trees, and bushes at the garden.
Last year, volunteers installed the new Community Share beds and drip irrigation for those beds and the demonstration beds. Horn said the drip irrigation certainly helped increase production.
"Rather than standing around watering for a couple hours three times a week, gardeners can turn on the drip irrigation and then focus on tending to weeds, or checking on plants, etc.," Horn said. "We can get a lot more done."
In addition to Master Gardeners, volunteers, and locals who rent beds, City staff also help keep the garden growing smoothly every year. Parks & Recreation and Public Works staff helped build the park and have made many renovations throughout the years. In 2021, Parks & Recreation staff helped fill the new Community Share beds with gardening mix and spread mulch around the park. Public Works Building Maintenance staff built an addition to the garden shed that holds garden carts and straw, and the Public Works Street Division supplied gardeners with a lot of leaf mulch.
"The City is a regular and valued partner in making the garden a success," Horn said.
Anyone interested in renting one of the private beds this year should call 828-757-1290 and ask to be put on the list for the Community Garden beds. Current gardeners will have a chance to rent their beds again. If anyone opts out this year, those beds will become available to rent. Horn will accept new gardeners for the available beds at the end of this month.
"Thank you to everyone who played a part in the success of the gardens in 2021," Horn said.
Located at 1419 College Ave., the Community Gardens include a plum and pear tree orchard, blueberry bushes, rental gardens, Master Gardener demonstration beds, a pollinator garden, bee hives to help pollinate the plants, a cover crop garden, the 43-bed Community Share garden, a garden shed, picnic shelter and table, restrooms, water, and compost area.
Click the following link to visit the Unity Park & Community Garden Facebook page and stay up-to-date on work days, programs, and other fun stuff happening at the gardens.
The Community Share beds at the Community Garden are available for anyone to harvest produce from for free.
Shallots harvested at the gardens.
Leaf lettuce available for harvest in the Community Share beds.