BY JEFFREY ZANKER, Staff Writer
ST. PETERSBURG — The Bartlett Park Community Garden, located at 1443 Highland St. S, is practically invisible despite being next to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Street South, noted garden manager Ava DeVaux.
As part of the 2019 MLK Day of Service, she and other volunteers will give the garden a much-needed facelift on Monday, Jan. 21. Entitled “Keeping the vision alive in the community,” the main objectives are painting and repairing chicken sheds.
DeVaux was raised on a farm in Georgia where her grandparents were sharecroppers. Growing up on a farm, she said, “was a thing to work.” She and her siblings had their own individual gardens, and she enjoyed planting and harvesting her crops.
“I always loved planting,” she said, noting that her inspiration came from her mother’s green thumb.
When DeVaux drove by the garden one day, a wave of nostalgia rushed over her, and she knew what she had to do. She started out as a volunteer then become the manager of the 10,000 square foot area.
The garden was founded in 2008 by Green Florida, a non-profit organization that provides network services for community gardens. DeVaux is now in the process of starting a new 501(c)3 nonprofit organization for the garden.
Every Saturday morning, DeVaux along with volunteers such as neighbors and children’s groups come help tend the wide variety of vegetables. They harvest vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, collard and mustard greens, spinach, brussels sprouts, cabbages and tomatoes. The garden also includes a chicken farm where they hand out eggs.
Community groups such as The Gathering of Women, Inc. and children from the neighborhood have their own raised beds, growing broccoli and carrots.
“They love being out here,” DeVaux said. “They love pulling out those carrots.”
Other volunteer groups include the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Coalition, the Garden Club of St. Pete and local churches often help tend the garden. Volunteers from the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg College and Eckerd College also join in on the fun.
After harvesting, the ripe vegetables are given to church food pantries and civic centers such as the Enoch Davis Center.
Outside of painting and repairing chicken sheds, other activities will include crafts and lectures about recycling and reusing garden materials. Some examples include turning a shopping cart into a flower bed or a plastic jug into a bird feeder. DeVaux estimated about 25 volunteers or more would help out.
In the future, DeVaux hopes to fix the greenhouse so that people can pick up a plant or two, and she also envisions the garden as a social gathering spot for the Midtown community.
The service event is from 10-1:30 p.m. For more information, call -727-612-8640.