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Garden and Union Gospel Mission Win Award to Revamp Backyard Vegetable Garden

New Program Will Provide Both Fresh, Organic Produce and Opportunities for Urban Agriculture Education and Outreach

Children at Backyard Vegetable Garden
Kids at the Backyard Vegetable Garden

Horticulturists are hard at work preparing the Backyard Vegetable Garden for upgrades and renovations that will allow the Garden to increase production and begin sharing the harvest with the Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County (UGM-TC). The upgrades are possible thanks to a recent award from the American Public Gardens Association and the United State Botanic Garden as part of their Urban Agriculture Resilience Program.

“This award will help us accomplish multiple goals,” says Director of Living Collections Seth Hamby, the principal investigator on the project. “First and foremost, we’ll be providing fresh vegetables to people in need. At the same time, we’ll be expanding education and volunteer opportunities for Garden guests.”

The Backyard Vegetable Garden is currently used by the Education department in the early childhood program Little Sprouts Book & Garden Club, as an activity station during school field trips, and during other family and adult education workshops. Renovating the garden will create opportunities for new and expanded education programming for both children and adults.

At the same time, UGM-TC will use the fresh vegetables to prepare meals and to help their residents and guests learn about options for healthy eating. The UGM-TC routinely teaches the importance of good nutrition and the role of fresh produce for lifetime wellness.

Union Gospel Mission of Tarrant County is a united Christian organization and ministry dedicated to providing love, hope, respect and a new beginning for the homeless in Tarrant County. As part of its residential programs for unhoused men, women and families, UGM-TC offers health and nutrition courses and partners with the Tarrant Area Food Bank on healthy cooking classes.

Interested in Started a Garden this Spring?
Upcoming Course:
“Preparing Your Summer Vegetable Garden”
April 30, 6 – 8 pm
Register now!

Preparing for a Fall Harvest

Garden staff and volunteers will spend the next few months preparing the Backyard Vegetable Garden for the fall growing season. They will be undertaking the same steps as home gardeners planning to create or expand a vegetable garden.

“We’ll be pulling out all old plant material and taking a good look at the soil and amending it,” Garden Projects Coordinator Stephen Haydon. For the Garden, that generally means incorporating a 6-1-2 organic fertilizer and two-to-four inches of compost into the soil. The numbers refer to the ratio of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the fertilizer; these are the three most essential nutrients that fuel plant growth. In organic fertilizers, these nutrients are released into the soil slowly over a period of weeks, ensuring the long-term health of the plants.

Basket of vegetables

The team will also look at how well the soil is draining and make any improvements needed. For home gardens, that often means slightly elevating garden beds or rows above the surrounding surface.

Finally, the irrigation system at the Backyard Vegetable Garden will be renovated. Home gardeners should also carefully consider how they will water their vegetables, since our climate will inevitably bake plants without regular irrigation.

Haydon and Hamby expect the garden to be ready for planting winter crops this summer. “Most people who garden in Texas know that we have two growing seasons, one in the fall and one in the spring. What they don’t think about is that you must plant fall crops in the summer while it’s still hot,” says Haydon.

For example, area garden expert Neil Sperry recommends planting corn, squash and beans around August 1, cabbage and broccoli in mid-August, and spinach and carrots in late August. (This guide from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension contains detailed information on getting started with a fall garden in Texas.)

By this time next year, the Backyard Vegetable Garden should be in full swing with summer crops going into the ground, new volunteers gaining valuable knowledge and the UGM-TC regularly preparing foods incorporating fresh, organic, locally grown vegetables. “It’s going to be a great partnership,” says Hamby.

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