● By Alexis Harborth
By: Alexis Harborth Photo by: Rachel Benavides
Community gardens are a growing trend in the Coastal Bend. Colorful crops are popping up thanks to gardeners, volunteers, and children, who are working hard planting seeds and reaping more than just fruits and veggies.
Aislynn Campbell is the founder of Grow Local South Texas. Her passion for community gardening goes back more than 15 years, when she began sharing its countless benefits.
“In the garden, you can learn everything,” Campbell says. “There isn’t a single thing you can’t learn once you get your hands in the dirt – I’ve learned about science, spatial reasoning, reading, seasonality, life and death, insects, different types of biology, communication skills, and more.”
The Learning Garden at Tom Graham Park is by Grow Local South Texas. Campbell explained that it is an important teaching garden – its mission is to cultivate a safe space for educating and advocating the benefits that community gardens create for their neighborhoods, as well as the community.
Another person proud to promote the many advantages of gardening is Richard Snyder, president of The Aransas County Community Garden. “It’s great to know where your food comes from, as well as what it takes to grow it.” He goes on to describe other benefits that some may not typically associate with gardening: “It’s a very social activity, for adults and kids alike, especially because we have monthly meetings where you can meet other people.”
An annual membership at The Aransas County Community Garden costs only $30 a year and includes everything a person needs to get going and growing. “The membership comes with a 4x8 raised garden bed, compost, mulch, support and advice, and more,” Snyder lists. “And whatever you grow is yours to eat, donate, or sell.”
One other garden growing for good is the recently launched Rainbow Vegetable Garden, created through a partnership between the Nueces County Keach Family Library in Robs-town and Driscoll Children’s Hospital’s WIC Program.
State representatives from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission traveled to Robstown for the ribbon cutting of the Rainbow Vegetable Garden, whose purpose is to teach the importance of eating vegetables in every color. Children at the grand opening planted the first seeds of the now blooming garden beds.
When it comes to getting involved, Campbell encourages those interested to reach out to any of the gardens in our area. “There are many established community gardens that need help and volunteers.”
Donations are another way to contribute. On the website for The Garcia Center Community Garden at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi, they list needing seeds, compost, and garden equipment to keep the garden running and healthy.
You could also drop in to help out on special workdays at some gardens, like The Aquarius Park & Community Garden. On Facebook, they create events detailing when their next work days are and what they’ll be accomplishing.
There are many ways to get involved, because the process of caring for gardens is as multifaceted as the personal benefits that someone can receive. As Campbell explains, you learn about dedication, commitment, and teamwork in a garden. That’s because hours of work go into each carrot or tomato, but the results come back tenfold.
Gardening impacts minds, as well as bodies, especially in our ever-increasing digital world.
“Gardening is such a calming hobby, especially for an active mind,” says Daniel Nash, an avid gardener in Corpus Christi. “Living in the Coastal Bend gives us an opportunity to grow year-round and spend our time outside, not in front of a screen.”
Whether you have a seasoned green thumb or are completely “green” to gardening, everyone agrees on the same thing – get started right away. Because while the crops may take time to grow, the personal growth is nearly immediate. “These are life-changing in our community, and we all have to give our support to make it successful,” Campbell goes on to say. “We can’t live without it.”
Local Community Gardens
The Learning Garden at Tom Graham Park – 3808 Up River Road
Aransas County Community Garden – 801 S. Live Oak Street
Aquarius Park & Community Garden – 15002 Aquarius Street
St. Christopher’s Episcopal Community Garden – 820 Wildcat Drive
The Garcia Center Community Garden at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi
Islander Green Community Garden – 6300 Ocean Drive
North Padre Island Community Garden at Doudon Park – Cobo de Bara Circle
EDGE Garden at Lindale Park – 3133 Swantner Street
Rainbow Vegetable Garden – Nueces County Keach Family Library, Robstown