in the garden

Circle Of Life

By / Photography By Daniel Perales | October 11, 2016
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Culverhouse Community Garden

At the north end of the Legacy Trail sit little plots of paradise. Culverhouse Community Garden, named for the family whose generous support made it possible, is just over an acre and a half. The surrounding protected nature park stretches 82 acres, right in the middle of Palmer Ranch.

Just off the famous Legacy Trail in South Sarasota stands this beautiful, unassuming garden. Gardeners tend 80 plots secured inside a sturdy fence. Collectively, they look like a hive of sorts: buzzing around, each aware of their task and determined to execute it proficiently. I stumbled upon it during a bike ride. I was hooked! Less than a week later I found myself corresponding with the queen bee herself, Marcia Freeman. She and a team of enthusiasts have spearheaded this project and have worked tirelessly since 2009 to make this dream a reality. With community support the garden opened in the winter of 2013.

After I expressed interest, Marcia kindly took me in, gave me the grand tour, shared her serendipitous story of her involvement with this project (answering an ad in the Turtle Rock newsletter) and introduced me to the community. Each person took time to introduce themselves and tell me how they ended up here.

During Florida’s growing season, typically October through June, members confidently harvest from fruiting plants such as tomatoes, peppers and squash. In slightly cooler weather root veggies and leafy greens thrive. There is always something ready to harvest as seasonal vegetables are grown in succession.

With someone always willing to help or give advice, this is so much more than a solo gardening project. Knowing what has worked in the past and what hasn’t are invaluable lessons freely shared among members. The garden “provides great opportunities to learn and work with other enthusiastic gardeners,” says Marcia. Challenges like summer weeds, fire ants and squirrels make teamwork essential.

An excellent resource for the community, CCG is the largest example of Sarasota’s Community Garden Program: 11 community gardens and 40 school gardens open to all Sarasota County residents with interest and $25.

“The garden is just another one of the amenities the area offers for folks who like to be outdoors,” says Marcia. Each member is responsible for tending to their plot, but helping hands are all around this place. The garden provides various-sized plots, all the tools you might need, seed exchanges, an orchard, compost and it’s all organic and solar-powered. Because there were never any plans for electricity or county water to this park, resourceful engineers designed a pressure-powered 28-hose faucet system to deliver water throughout the garden. Members range from little sprouts to retirees, coming from all walks of life and all over Sarasota County. Marcia’s greatest satisfaction has come from seeing people enjoy the garden. Step inside this magical place, you’ll see this community flourishing as a team and that’s what makes CCG truly amazing.

Culverhouse Community Garden: 7301 McIntosh Rd,

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