Dancing for Community Plants, Camaraderie

About 200 people attended the third-annual Dance for Plants fundraiser sponsored by Gulfport’s Community Garden group on Friday, March 2 at the Historic Casino. The garden is located at 5125 Preston Ave. S.

We garden in a sharing way,” said George Zarillo, president of the Gulfport Community Garden.

The group held their third-annual Dance for Plants fundraiser on Friday, March 2 at the Historic Gulfport Casino from 6:30 to 11 p.m. About 200 people participated by dancing, enjoying a raffle and asking questions at an Expert Gardening Tips table staffed by two master gardeners, Michael Behnke, the garden’s planting coordinator, and Jay Gould, a volunteer with over 50 years of gardening experience.

One of the display items at the table was a Grounds for Your Garden silver bag from Starbucks.

“They bag used coffee grounds for compost use and it has that magic word on the label: free!” said Gould. “Just walk in and ask, ‘Do you have any coffee grounds you want to get rid of?’”

Located at 5125 Preston Ave. S. on land owned by the city of Gulfport, the group is all about community.

“We are inclusive,” said Jenny Reisner, treasurer. “You may not be able to physically garden but there are many things people can do like help with fundraising, serve as a group officer or create artwork that can be displayed in the garden.”

Currently, there are 10 to 12 regular volunteers who work in the garden twice a week on Tuesdays from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon, said Zarillo. About 20 other people volunteer occasionally. Everyone gardens together as there are no individual plots and nothing is rented. It’s all free.

“Stop by. Enjoy. Relax. Bring your coffee or tea and sit down,” said Reisner.

“We have a lot of fun,” said Zarillo.

Volunteers harvest what produce they need for themselves and the rest is donated weekly to the Gulfport Senior Center food pantry, said Reisner.

“Now, we’re probably giving them more broccoli than they’d like to see,” she said.

The group’s goals for 2018 are to create a higher profile of what they do in the community, offer more classes, increase membership and strengthen their already growing connections with people, said Zarillo, who has been with the group for three years. Training topics include amending the soil and composting.

“Ultimately, it’s about people,” said Zarillo. “We need to be connected with each other and the Earth.”

For more information, visit facebook.com/Gulfportcommunitygarden.

From left, Alex and Esther Larys of Seminole quiz Michael Behnke, the Gulfport Community Garden’s planting coordinator, and Jay Gould, a volunteer with over 50 years of gardening experience, at the Expert Gardening Tips table. “I wanted something that is easy to grow, that will be tall and attract birds, and is native,” said Esther. Gould suggested the American Beautyberry plant.


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