Community Garden Spotlight: Decatur High School

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Decatur puts the “community” in “community garden.”
(A special report in our Community Garden Series by Carrie Culwell)

I arrived at DHS on a bright Thursday morning. The garden was hard to miss, abutting the road behind the school and spanning half of a block.

A small group of extension agents, master gardeners and volunteers greeted me near the edge of the plots. When I asked for information about the garden, they referred to Tamara Jones, a co-site leader for master gardener volunteer activities, to fill me in. Tamara (with plenty of funny interjectory assistance from her 9-year-old daughter Maura) told me of the many varieties of plant life – and human life – represented in the garden
Looking around, it was hard to grasp that this garden began as an empty lot, overrun with Kudzu and other invasive species, requiring the work of many hands over many, many, many workdays to create the beautiful space I saw that morning.

After strolling through the garden, taking frequent refuge in the shade of the many large trees dotting the edges of the plot, I met Jan Gable. She explained that her daughter had vision of a gardening-focused curriculum. One that would engage students with the land and produce food to eat. This was the impetus for the entire project.

Yes, this impressive garden began as a humble senior project for Anna Rose Gable, a Decatur High School student. She envisioned a garden for all to enjoy, a garden that would bring together people from all walks of life living in the Decatur area.

From her dream sprouted this bountiful garden, full of fruits, vegetables, herbs, flowers, and even bees! A hive, donated by Tamara Jones’s family, perches in the back of the lot near a pollinator garden and a small grove of fruit trees.

Occasionally, master gardeners will host workshops for the other members to show them how to care for their gardens and, perhaps even more importantly, how to prevent insects and invasive species from impeding the growth of their plants! Thanks to Georgia’s temperate climate, these plots can be being maintained year-round. This further extends that certain sense of community that can only be built when you’ve worked alongside another human being in the bitter cold or scorching heat.

Sadly, the garden might fall prey to the inevitability of expansion, as the school is growing larger and plans to extend into the very lot that the garden currently calls home, but the gardeners have accepted their fate. They were made aware that they would only have limited time to occupy the space. Yet hope endures. As one of the remarkable and determined women I met that day told me, “gardens are mobile.” If they are uprooted, they’ll move, put down roots and adapt to their new environment – and the plants will, too.

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