Early greens are poking through the dirt at Murfreesboro Community Garden on State Street.

Early greens are poking through the dirt at Murfreesboro Community Garden on State Street.

Jennifer Jackson, Denisha Barker, Autumn Shultz and her daughter, Danielle, got spring crops in the ground just in time for Saturday's showers.

Beets, spinach, chard, kale, lettuce, sweet peas, broccoli and an Asian salad mix were all just planted, with much more to come.

"This is all cool season crops," says Shultz, founder of the garden. Summer planting will start in mid-April, and includes tomatoes, peppers, corn, melons and squash.

"There's definitely some things that we planted this year that we've never planted before," said Shultz.

It's a lot to be excited about, but two things stick out. "For me, it's probably the golden beets and the three sisters."

Golden beets are a new variety to the community garden, chosen after last year's basic beets struck a home run.

"My husband had never eaten beets before, and now he loves them," says Shultz.

Three sisters is a Native American companion planting technique, allowing beans to trellis up cornstalks while squash plants shade the roots. Here, pumpkins will stand in for the squash.

"I am excited about strawberries and a second attempt at watermelons," says Barker. She jumped into the gardening game after watching a documentary on healthy living. It suggested growing the food you eat, but Barker lives in an apartment. An online search brought her to the community garden Facebook page, so she messaged them.

"Hey, can I come garden? I don't know how, but I want to learn."

"I wasn't here last year, so I'm really excited about all of it," says Jackson as she turns the earth with a hand rake. She sought out the community garden so her elementary schooler could help, too. "It's hard to find volunteer work that kids can be involved in."

Murfreesboro Community Garden makes a point of being kid-friendly, since part of the goal is to jumpstart a love of healthy food and teach the next generation where it comes from -- in this case, it's a plot behind Key United Methodist Church, off of State Street.

"They were hoping someone would start a community garden right here," says Shultz. It was a perfect match, because Shultz was seeking for space for this very reason. In 2013 she broke ground on the church's land.

Community partners who can't offer garden space help meet other needs.

"The Juice Bar is giving us all their juice pulp and Cultivate Coworker is giving us their coffee grounds," she says. Dead matter, like old leaves or dried grass clippings, is harder to come by, but necessary for healthy compost and happy neighbors -- it prevents the smell of decomposing food waste from wafting through the neighborhood. So after volunteers turn the compost and layer juice pulp and coffee grounds, they carefully cover the top with peat moss.

"Compost loves rain and loves oxygen. If either of those are out of balance, the microorganisms are not as happy."

Volunteers are always welcome at the garden, and they take home most of its bounty. Any surplus produce is donated. "Every Saturday from 10 to noon we're here," says Shultz. "I kind of like to introduce people to the garden first."

After the initial introduction, folks are welcome to come get their hands dirty at their leisure. Youth groups, scouting troops and other organizations also schedule work days with Shultz, who is only a call or a text away.

"We try lot of fun things," she says. "We just try. Because you don't know."

To set up a volunteer opportunity or ask questions about the garden, reach her at (615) 497-5936.

© 2017 The Murfreesboro Post

Recommended for you