Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
The drizzle and threatening rain did not scare away gardeners at Coppell Community Gardens or those who came out to take the Texas Smart Scape Tour hosted by the group Sep. 29.
Nine local residents allowed visitors to roam their yards and learn about plants and methods of growing them to promote techniques to beautify landscapes through the use of native and adaptive drought tolerant plants, which provide ecological and environmental benefits. A Smart Scape uses less water, fertilizers and pesticides while attracting birds, butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees. Native plants require minimal irrigation and care which saves time, money, and water.
Featured homes included a hummingbird garden with a zen-like feel, an English cottage style garden, a river rock bed garden, a turf-free garden, and a bottle loofa tree garden. Homeowners and garden experts were available to speak to visitors and answer questions. Tour goers learned about managing composts and worm bins, benefits of solar panels, organic fertilizer, mulching and use of rain barrels.
Helping Hands Garden
The tour started at Helping Hands Garden next to Town Center. The garden swarmed with volunteers who harvested, planted, weeded and watered plants. As they worked, Metrocrest Social Services’ Food Pantry in Farmers Branch came by and picked up the 106 pounds of food harvested that morning. The pickings included cucumbers, 35 pounds of eggplants, 40 pounds of okra, 25 pounds of peppers and 3 pounds of squash.
“It is transition time between summer and winter, so a lot of the things have stopped growing,” said long-time gardener, Bob Jones, who has volunteered at the gardens 11 years. “We can grow all kinds of food during the winter: spinach, chard, collards, broccoli and cabbage. We have some row cover we can cover it if it’s really going to get cold, but most of it will take a light freeze without a problem.”
Jones said that just recently he harvested 80 pounds of sweet potatoes he grew in a plot that looked to be about four feet by six feet in size.
“They were all big, round nice ones,” Jones said.
He said conditions had been perfect for growing sweet potatoes.
“We had some good spring rains, and we got rain in the summer, which is pretty unusual. They use a lot of water, so they did well. The temperature didn’t get too awfully hot either.”
The kindergarten class at Lake Side Elementary next door to the garden had a plot of sweet potatoes waiting to be harvested that promised at least another 80 pounds of food for the Metrocrest Food Pantry.
Diane Lowe, a garden volunteer for 12 years, is president of the Coppell Community Garden Board, which oversees the Helping Hands Garden and another one next to the post office called Ground Delivery Garden. The group also oversees the Farmers Market open from 8 a.m. to Noon on Saturdays at 793 S. Coppell Road in Old Town Coppell.
“We have an environmental education committee that’s responsible for helping people in the community learn more about sustainable and eco-friendly gardening practices,” Lowe said.
She said they have about 100 to 120 volunteers on three committees.
“At the gardens, we have about 70 volunteers,” Lowe said. “Saturday mornings is our harvest time and when we are the busiest. That’s when we do our chores: turn compost piles, take care of weeding and harvest.
“It’s all an adopt-a-plot arrangement. Anyone who is interested in gardening may help. They understand that these are donation gardens. They sign an agreement to adopt a plot, to keep it productive, planted, watered, and harvested. We encourage them to taste it to make sure it’s good, but this is not for people who want to grow food for their own table. This is for putting food on the tables of those less fortunate. It’s a labor of love.”