It’s the first day of spring and to mark the occasion, we’re celebrating the special new vegetable garden at Westminster Suncoast in St. Petersburg!
Westminster Suncoast is known as a lively garden community, so it comes as no surprise that its residents wanted a flourishing legacy. Recently, they unveiled their new community vegetable garden, the product of several resident gardening enthusiasts. The garden boasts fresh broccoli, cabbage, Swiss chard, spinach, basil, carrots, tomatoes, eggplant and various peppers, using an innovative product, the EarthBox. Now after hard work, the bounty of their efforts is being served as delectable entrees in the main dining room at lunch and dinner.
This resident-led garden is a special story of teamwork among neighbors, volunteers, employee teams, and community experts. Resident woodworkers built platforms for the plants. Members of the maintenance team built a brick terrace embedded in the concrete base of the garden. A fresh water supply was run to the garden area and several resident gardeners formed a committee to oversee the project and commit themselves to scrupulous organization and planning before planting the first seed. Experts from the Pinellas County Extension Service recommended the selection of the EarthBox and helped with size selection and plant choices.
Today, the resident garden is a cornucopia of fresh vegetables, herbs, and excitement. It’s an attraction that draws residents and visitors to view the selection of produce. Dining Services Director Jason Brunner and Chef Kenny Hunsperger from Dining Services team have begun incorporating the community-grown broccoli and cabbage into the dining menu, featured in salads and coleslaws.
The garden utilizes an innovative container garden system called the EarthBox, which was actually invented by a former resident at Westminster Point Pleasant. Due to its ease of use, portability and resistance to critters, the EarthBox can grow vegetables, herbs and fruit simpler than with traditional, in-ground methods. The Westminster Retirement Communities Foundation, who is committed to enhancing the lives of Westminster residents, awarded the Garden Committee $10,000 to complete the purchase of 24 EarthBox kits and various herbs and vegetable seedlings. These kits were installed, using organic soil, fertilizer, dolomite and covers and with custom-built stands, surrounded by a white fence, composter, potting bench, and sundry tools.
The best part of this garden is the spirit of camaraderie and accomplishment among a group of garden enthusiasts who knew this project would enhance their way of life. Westminster Suncoast resident Julia, an experienced organizer and garden enthusiast, heads the Garden Committee and led the methodical and detailed approach to building the garden. As a result of the efforts of her team, the help of community organizations like the Pinellas County Extension Service, the support of the Westminster Retirement Communities Foundation, and the Florida sunshine, these residents and employees have planted an ecosystem of cooperation.