Plans for a community garden in Plant City are moving forward with the recent donation of land at St. Peter's Episcopal Church.
After reading about a group of local gardeners' efforts to establish Plant City Commons — an organic garden where people would till individual plots of land and excess produce would be donated — the church's rector, the Rev. Tom Thoeni, decided to get involved.
"If you've got the expertise, I've got the land," Thoeni told organizers Bob Abbenzeller, Tom Carroll, Rosalind Baker and Karen Elizabeth.
In May, the Carey Street church and the group drew up a long-term plan to develop a community garden.
Members will work at the garden a minimum of 20 hours per season and will pay $25 a year for access to an individual plot of land. Any excess produce will be given to local charities.
The community garden will also lead seminars and classes in topics such as permaculture — teaching people to design and maintain a diverse and sustainable agricultural operation.
The church will also show free movies at 6:30 p.m. every Thursday about permaculture and how it affects the environment.
The first phase of garden layout and sheet mulching for individual and community plots began the first week of July, in preparation for fall planting.
In May, after the first compost piles were begun and the St. Peter's Community Garden sign went up, Thoeni led a dedication ceremony, where those assembled prayed and cast incense to the wind in all four directions.
Elizabeth asked those at the dedication to keep the community garden's goals in sight by remembering this simple verse: "Flower gardens grow flowers, vegetable gardens grow vegetables, and community gardens grow communities."
Richard Skinner, owner of Hawkins Corner Nursery, donated two saplings mentioned in the Bible, olive and pomegranate trees, to be the first things planted in the garden. Despite the recent storms, both trees are thriving. Lemon grass, Florida native flowers, aloe and a golden dew drop were added recently.
Organizers say they have several needs right now.
"The first priority is to have someone, experienced volunteer to inspect the existing onsite well, and return it to service," Elizabeth said.
Additional needs include a storage shed, parts and supplies for drip irrigation, roof gutters to capture rain water, gardening tools, donations of cardboard and partially composted livestock manure.
"We have a plan to help our community become more self-sufficient, as well as help those in need," Elizabeth said. "In turn, we also need your donations in order to complete the community garden vision."
A sculpture garden and creative walkways are also planned for the garden. Donations of broken glass, tile and pieces of wood will be used in free art workshops conducted by artist Kimberly Wyant.
At 6:30 p.m. July 24, local gardening and farming experts will demonstrate container selection, soil preparation, seed selection, planting procedures and vegetable choices for fall planting. There also will be a demonstration of how household materials can be repurposed for starting seeds.
To offer up donations, call Bob Abbenzeller at (813) 763-4653. To keep up with community garden events, call the church office at (813) 752-5061 or follow the Plant City Commons on Facebook.