- Martha Hutzel
While discussing the idea of the series of library programs under the umbrella of Cultivating Community, it suddenly hit me that we could have a vegetable garden on the grounds of the Porter Branch! The next thought was...we could give the bounty of fresh vegetables to the Stafford County food pantry, otherwise known as S.E.R.V.E. The idea was to help the community, teach young people about fresh food and where it comes from, and allow those families who use the food pantry to obtain some fresh produce, locally grown.
The very first step involved obtaining the permission of Stafford County to begin such a program without detracting from the landscape plan and the beauty of the library grounds. Once we received permission I began looking for a volunteer to build raised beds and an Eagle Scout candidate soon emerged. Since the scouts have to raise the cost of the building materials themselves, I knew any other funds raised could be used for good top soil, mulch, plants and garden tools. Our Eagle Scout, Jacob Phillips, actually built two raised beds on two levels since we are using a slight hill area, one that luckily for us has two in-ground sprinkler heads so almost no watering beyond that will need to be done!
The largest section of the garden is 15.5 feet by 8 feet and the smaller section is 10 feet by 5 feet. One day a man from SMC Stone and Mulch Center drove by and saw the fledgling garden and offered a great deal (including free delivery) of good top soil and mulch. In the meantime, a group of Air Force men who live near the library offered their services to spread the soil and the Master Gardeners offered to plant the vegetable plants, which were given to us by The Corner Garden Center on Garrisonville Road! So far, so good! Financial support for the project came from the North Stafford Rotary Club, Stafford Rotary Club and Dr. Yvonne Villarreal from Embracing Health Integrative Primary Care on Garrisonville Road.
There are currently about 40 vegetable plants (tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers, yellow squash and zucchini) and several small tomatoes and peppers have already emerged. There are also marigolds to help keep the bugs away and a few gerbera daisies, just for fun! Over the summer we hope to have teen volunteers help pick the produce and children attending programs at Porter visit the garden and maybe pick a few items so they can learn where vegetables grow and how a vegetable garden works!