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Today, in our continuing quest to learn how others manage their community gardens in the DFW area, Charlie and I visited the Plano Community Garden--and what a learning experience that was!  I'll tell the story of our visit in captions to photos that I took there today.

As we entered the garden we saw the sign for the Plano Community Garden flanked by two huge rose bushes.  Very pretty. The Plano Community Garden began in 2005 as a cooperative partnership between the Junior League of Plano and the City of Plano's Sustainability and Environmental Services department. The garden's 50 raised beds provide fresh produce to community food pantries and present hands-on educational opportunities for local schools, children's organizations and organic gardeners.  If you wish to visit, they are located at 4030 W. Plano Parkway - Plano, TX 75093

The photos above are featured on the other side of the road as you enter the Plano Commmunity Garden.



One of several large fruitful pomegranate bushes in the Common Orchard at the Plano Community Garden

Meet the People We Met Today:

Patty Pierce and Mark O. were the first urban gardener volunteers we met there today.  They were in the orchard choosing pomegranates from the several pomegranate trees in the common orchard.  They really looked yummy.  I almost asked for one for myself.  I also noticed fig bushes, pear trees, and peach trees in the orchard.  Although the  orchard is still young, it is already producing fruit.

Patty is one of about 25 volunteers who keep the 50 garden plots of the Plano Community Garden going.  Like all urban gardeners I've met so far, Patty is knowledgeable, cheerful and willing to share her knowledge.

Below is a photo of Mark and Patty.  Mark was spraying some tomato trees with a pesticide sprayer marked "Roundup".  Of course, I just about fainted. When I recovered from the shock I asked him what was in the container.  He told me that it was "BT" which is an organic bacteria that kills bugs that infest tomatoes.  I guess Monsanto sells those spray containers branded "Roundup" but you don't necessarily need to put Roundup in it to spray your plants.

BT stands for Bacillus thuringiensis.  Not all agree that BT is safe, however.  Here is more information on that if you care to know and decide for yourself. [Source]  I am of the opinion that bugs don't eat that much so I let them have their way in my garden.  I'm finding there is still more than enough left for me to eat.

Below is a photo of Juanita Freeman--another urban gardener volunteer at the Plano Community Garden.  Juanita, Patty and I discussed the differences in what people view as "acceptable" food.  Juanita, who grew up in the New Orleans area, said that her father always had a large garden and among the vegetables were turnips.  Her family only ate the turnips.  They threw away the greens. She said she was surprised to learn from her classmates that they ate the turnip greens.  Patty said that her experience was just the opposite.  She didn't eat the turnips, but instead ate the greens.  (I couldn't help but wonder later what they might think of Anita and I eating raw okra pods picked fresh from my urban garden a few nights ago.)

Below is a photo of Erin  Hoffer, Environmental Education Coordinator and Master Gardener. Erin is standing inside the Environmental Education Center (City Of Plano) at 4116 W. Plano Parkway Plano.  I'll say more about the Center and Erin later.  For now, let us finish our tour of the Plano Community Garden.


Continuing the Tour of the Plano Community Garden - November 2, 2013

Asparagus and lots of it in the garden.  I was impressed with the amount of asparagus growing all over the various garden plots.  In my opinion--a very good thing since asparagus is a perennial vegetable.  

Inspriration for Garden Decorative Borders:  Throughout the garden, several urban gardeners have filled colored bottles with sand and inserted them into the soil bottoms up.  It makes for a colorful and interesting border to plant beds.  If you look carefully in the shadows of the phot below, you can see them.


Below you'll see a metal can (about 5 gal) buried in the soil.  There are many of these cans scattered through the Plano Community Garden.  For more information on this method of composting table scraps view this site from the City of Davis, CA.  [Source]

Below is a covered area where volunteers gather in the summer to get water, visit and escape the heat.  When I asked Patty if this was where they held the classes, she said, "Oh no, we do that at our environmental education center."  She later took me on a tour of that facility and introducted me to Erin Hoffer.  I had envisioned a similar structure, only 2/3's this size for an outdoor classroom at our facility here in Garland.

Below is the view one sees from the perspective of the roof-covered area in the photo above.  Notice the red painted cable spindle in the foreground--another of many examples of re-use in their garden.


Ideas Ideas and More Ideas for Urban Gardening

Hoop covering from Fencing Material

I loved all the creative uses of materials and resulting functional designs.  For example below is wire fencing that has been bent over leafy greens (I think swiss chard).  Then the gardener put netting over the wire to keep pests out.  This same simple design would suffice to protect plants from light frosts too.  Instead of netting, plastic sheeting would be used.  Bricks are then placed to secure the netting (or plastic covering).


 Fences using PVC pipe, ty-wraps, chicken wire, and rebars

This design is lightweight and mobile--very easy to open up access to a garden area.  You just lift the section up off its rebar.


Notice how ty-wraps secure the chicken wire to the PVC pipe.

The photo below provides a larger view of the overall appearance of this highly mobile fence.


More Photos of Produce from the Plano Community Garden

Below Patty shows us one of her bell peppers.

And here we see Patty's Kale--beautiful and healthy.

And here we have a lush bed of tarragon.

The Plano Community Garden is beautiful, charming and practical.  It's a great place to make you feel better--even when you are already feeling great.  Here are a few more photos for you to enjoy, but it is much better to see in person.

Yes, they have beehives too.  If you look carefully in the photo below, you will see them in the distance near the middle of the photo.




 This is another whole, yet connected story.  This LEED certified building is located a short distance from the community garden.  It is what happens when citizens love their city and its environment enough to pass a bond issue to ensure that it continues to become greener and greener and healthier and healthier for its citizens.  Erin Hoffer took me on a tour of this wonderful center--almost all of which was built from repurposed and recycled materials.  It is fantastic.  The roof that you see in the foreground supports solar panels that provide energy for the center and there is so much more--a living roof, rainwater harvesting, etc.

Charlie and I plan to revisit this building and I will write more about it at that time.  Even from today there is so much more to tell--for example, about the Plano Recycling center. . .   

Rainwater Harvesting

Did you ever see such a beautiful cistern for collecting rainwater?  This one collects rainwater from the roof of the center and then it is pumped to the back of the building where it is stored in a 20,000 gallon storage tank.

This is the 20,000 gallon storage tank where the harvested rainwater is stored.


In closing, the center has a lovely art piece--a sculpture of butterflies fashioned from aluminum cans.  A collection of led lights cast shadows that move across the background of the sculpture.

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