This post and photos were contributed by guest author, Cathy Cuthbertson. Cathy joined Neal Community Garden in 2018.
Fresh organic food, blooms, bounty and friendship. Good things come from the garden.
The Neal Community Garden, on Wares Creek just across from Ballard Elementary School on 9th Avenue West, is thriving. It is a resplendent example of how space once blighted, can be transformed into beautiful green space for raising food and growing a community.
Opening in May 2018 with 50 vacant plots, the organic garden is maintained solely by volunteer gardeners who rent plots from the city for a one-time fee of $20. It’s fun, lots of work, and rewards are many. The city owns the garden, but volunteers handle upkeep and weeding, provide their own soil amendments, seeds and plants. The little red shed on the north side of the garden provides storage for tools of the trade: rakes, hoes, spades, organic fertilizers and a community bulletin board.
Stroll among the plots to find an array of vegetables and flowers, including tomatoes, Brussels sprouts, celery, mustard and collard greens, okra, Swiss chard, peanuts, onions, turnips, zinnias, nasturtiums, herbs and more. The largest plot is set aside for multifunctional and education purposes, hosting Florida native species such as elephant’s foot, Florida greeneyes, the coastal verbena, and a variety of native clumping grasses. These plants attract essential pollinators and provide visual diversity.
Draping the garden’s wrought iron fence with brilliant color and showing off a cascade of blooms, coral honeysuckle, sky blue cluster vine, ocean blue morning glories and passion vine were planted all along the garden’s border in 2021.
The garden is hosting social gatherings, too. Last year we came together for a birthday party, a potluck dinner, and drum circle. We finished the year on a festive note with Carols & Cookies, our first Christmas caroling sing-along inside the garden.
We are extremely grateful to the City of Bradenton for its support and providing this beautiful space for gardening.
Vacant plots are available and may be rented for a one-time fee of $20. Gardening experience not necessary. To rent a plot contact Mr. William Ackles, City of Bradenton – Local Business Tax Clerk / Records Management Liaison Officer, Ph: (941) 932-9425 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org