As with almost all organizations and individuals, the Gulfport Community Garden has had to adapt to our changing world due to COVID-19.
Six months ago, our garden was in full swing – we had 25 volunteers planning and contributing to the (then) upcoming 5th Annual Dance For Plants, our primary fundraising event of the year. As you know, that event and all others at the Gulfport Casino Ballroom were canceled.
Although a number of volunteers stopped coming to work days due to health concerns, some of us have been able to keep things going through these summer months. We were concerned about food supply networks and we also wanted to continue to help with fresh food at the Gulfport Senior Center Food Pantry. We wear masks, keep a respectable distance – not too hard to do while working at the garden – and request that visitors do that too. We have extra masks on hand.
Summers for most people are the least rewarding when it comes to gardening in Florida. It’s hot, humid and more traditional garden vegetable favorites – like tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce and carrots – don’t grow very well or at all.
Since last September, when we began regular planting, we harvested more than 1500 pounds of produce. Some of our raised beds are planted with cover crops now, but we are harvesting okra, peppers and Egyptian spinach. We’re still hoping that some of the melons and squash we planted this spring will fully develop.
There are many leafy green vegetables that tolerate and thrive in tropical growing conditions. Egyptian spinach, Okinawan spinach, Malabar spinach, longevity spinach and Surinam spinach, to name a few. They don’t taste like the spinach we’re used to eating. They tend to be rather bland to the average taste buds, and we need to be creative in cooking, seasoning and preparing them. Most are easy to grow, nutritious and some, like Surinam Spinach, make an attractive ground cover with its shiny green leaves and pretty pink flowers. It’s always nice to expand the variety and options of food we eat and grow in our yards – both for pleasure and for food security.
Cow Horn Okra Seeds
Most of the okra we are growing is a large, very fast-growing heritage variety. Some of the okra grows so quickly they become fibrous and inedible, but they have many seeds. Anyone who’d like some seeds is welcome from 9 to 10 a.m. on Saturdays and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. There’s still time to plant and harvest another crop of them.
Our community compost is still open to everyone to drop off their kitchen scraps – vegetables, fruits, tea, eggshells, coffee grounds – during gardening hours. Eating fresh, locally grown foods is one of the best ways to keep our selves and our planet healthy.
Find Gulfport Community Garden at 5125 Preston Ave. S. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.