MURFREESBORO – Armed with spades, hoes, rakes, stakes, and more, members of the Murfreesboro Community Garden Coalition came prepared to work Saturday morning.
Planting day had arrived.
Caroline Stephenson, co-owner of the Cultivator Bookstore, was one of the people who dreamed up the community garden project and set it into motion. Stephenson, along with other members of the garden coalition, worked for months to get everything ready to move forward. The Murfreesboro Town Council agreed to lease a plot of land within Riverside Park for the group to use.
Volunteers started gathering around 9 a.m. on Saturday morning to start putting seeds and young plants into the ground, after weeks of tilling and other ground preparation work. Before the work began, the coalition held a short blessing ceremony to commemorate the event.
“I prepared about a three-page speech, but Caroline told me to finish before the growing season is over with,” Mayor Hal Thomas joked before sharing a few words of welcome and encouragement to the group.
After Pastor Tina Watson prayed for the garden, the work got underway with everyone pitching in to help.
A variety of vegetables will be grown in the garden, including tomatoes, sweet corn, garden peas, eggplant, lima beans, lettuce, arugula, spinach and more. Along with the vegetables, flowers like zinnias were planted on the end rows while sunflower seeds were placed in a middle row.
The purpose of the flowers is to attract bees and other insects which help to pollinate the vegetable plants.
“And that’ll make it pretty too,” explained Susan Bass, one of the members of the garden coalition.
“I’m very excited to be participating,” she continued. “I’ve only been living here about six months, so this is a great way for me to get to know the community. My dad is really into gardening, and we always talked about doing something [like a community garden] in our hometown, but then we moved here.”
Bass said she found out about the community garden just by chance from visiting the Cultivator and talking to Stephenson. From there, she said, she was “all in” on the project and is eager to see how it will turn out.
From toddlers to senior citizens, people of all ages made their way to the park to take part in planting day.
Amanda Jones brought her children out to help, noting they’d been excitedly talking about working in the garden for weeks. She said it was a good opportunity for them to learn something new.
When asked what her children were most excited about, Jones answered, “they’re probably looking forward to coming back out here to see how big it grew, seeing the work they’ve done.”
Stephenson was quick to acknowledge all the community help they’ve received in order to make the garden a reality. Many of the plants and seeds were donated from various people and businesses, including Ace Hardware. Local farmers donated time and equipment to break ground on their plot of land.
“Cooperative Extension has been great, giving us advice,” she added, “and local churches have also been very supportive in helping to get the word out.”
The purpose of the garden, she explained, is not only to bring the community together, but also to help provide more fresh vegetables for the people of Murfreesboro and the surrounding area.
“That is something that will always be a need,” she said.
The community garden coalition meets at 5:30 p.m. every Monday night at the bookstore, and anyone is welcome to join. A small fee is required, and members are expected to work a certain amount of time in the garden each week, though work hours are negotiable for senior citizens over age 65.
Excess vegetables are planned to be sold at a pop-up market to help the coalition purchase seeds and plants in the future.
The garden buzzed with activity on Saturday morning. Some volunteers used hoes to form rows while others got down on their knees to place young tomato plants in the ground. Those with previous experience passed on their knowledge to first-time gardeners.
“Putting your hands in the dirt is good for the soul,” said gardener Booker Daniel, taking a break briefly before returning to help some children who were planting flower seeds.