Gardeners are mobilizing around Gulfport and elsewhere as cooler weather ushers in the fall planting season.
Jené VanButsel, owner of Jené’s Tropicals at 6831 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg, said the small break in the heat has set gardeners pining to get their veggies in the ground and the holidays’ seasonal colors in their landscape.
“The change in the weather is a big motivator,” she said Tuesday, October 13.
Gardeners are busy enhancing their soil with composted chicken or cow manure, worm casings and peat. They’re planting herbs, tomatoes, collards, cabbage, kale and kohlrabi. They’re thinking of bright fall colors – oranges, yellows and reds – when putting together garden arrangements in anticipation of Thanksgiving and Christmas.
For anyone who wants to get their hands muddy, options abound.
At the Gulfport Community Garden at 5123 Preston Ave., half a dozen people were hard at work October 11, their second Sunday meeting of the season, preparing beds, planting, weeding and generally getting dirty and sweaty under the hot sun. A primary task that day was planting more than 50 seedlings donated by Carla’s Garden & Homemade Goodies of Palmetto, including tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
Different sections of the garden are dedicated to different kinds of plantings, and on Sunday Angela Achim was tending to the herbs, Laura Clarke was busy with the red wiggler worms, and Barbara Matthews was refining her permaculture garden.
Also working was Cathy Marsh, who brought some of the seedlings in the community garden from Gulfport Montessori Elementary School, where she and her husband helped the children plant a garden early in the school year. Seeds planted by the students are already sprouting into squash, turnips, herbs and kale, she said.
“It was amazing to see,” Marsh said of the children. “We showed up with a bevy of adults but they kind of pushed us out of the way and took over.”
Community Garden President George Zarillo of Gulfport says the garden focuses on education, community building and food production. Founded in 2009, it is located in an empty lot owned by the City of Gulfport. Anyone can participate. Garden workers use the produce themselves and donate the rest to community organizations, he said.
In another section of Gulfport, students, faculty and staff from Stetson University College of Law planted a campus community organic garden in the Crummer Courtyard on Friday, October 9, according to information on the college’s website.
Produce from the garden, including bell peppers, tomatoes, basil and lettuces, will be available to members of the law school community.
“I chose crops that would thrive in a warm and humid climate,” student SeanCarlo Lopez, a member of the Food Law Society at Stetson, was quoted as saying. “My goal was to choose plants with the best possible yield while requiring the least amount of maintenance. Most importantly, I wanted crops students would be inclined to take home with them.”
People who need help getting started in gardening can find plenty of free resources online and elsewhere. One of these is the Childs Park Community Library’s new Seed Library. The library at 691 43rd St. S. in St. Petersburg has an extensive selection of herb, vegetable and flower seed packets available free of charge for individual and community gardeners. It also has a wide selection of gardening books and instructional materials.