Giving Gardens: CUMC Sugar Land, TX

I love programs that connect gardeners with people who need fresh vegetables. Many community gardens take up collections of donated produce or even better, dedicate plots to the local food bank. These gardens can also be part of schools, community centers, and places of worship. Last month during my trip back to Texas to visit the family, my dad showed me around the awesome garden at Christ United Methodist Church in Sugar Land, TX. My parents, Tom and Debe, have been members of Christ United for many years and my dad has been volunteering in the garden for the past three years.

The gardeners partner with the East Fort Bend Human Needs Food Pantry, delivering produce once or twice a week during the busy growing season. The garden coordinator, Mark Larson, keeps track of the crops planted, the amount of food produced and donated, and makes notes and changes for the next season. In 2015 this garden produced 2,330 pounds of organic vegetables for the community. You can find out a little more on the Christ United church website

This garden is designed for efficiency and is tended by a core team of 6-7 volunteers. Raised beds edged in cement blocks improve drainage above black clay soil and are spaced wide enough to allow the paths to be trimmed with the mower. A drip irrigation system with timers saves volunteer hours and conserves water. Gardeners also collect live oak leaves for mulching the beds.

Tomato cages made from steel reinforcing wire panels can handle the big heirlooms and high winds that whip around the church building. Smaller traditional cages are used for San Marzano tomato plants. Some seedlings are purchased and some are started by volunteers at home.

These trellises are used for peas and cucumbers. The "mesh" is made from more steel reinforcing wire panels and there is rebar running through the PVC piping to stabilize.

And they compost of course.

The warm coastal climate and the radiant heat provided by the south facing back wall of the church make it possible to grow greens all winter without a greenhouse or hoop house. In the hot summers, eggplant, okra, sweet potatoes, squash, peppers. and tomatoes are the main harvest. The biggest pest and disease challenges are fire ants and mildew.

below: meyer lemon