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Longboat Key Monday, May 3, 2021 1 week ago

Paradise Center to start edible garden

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Thanks to a Longboat Key Garden Club grant, the center will soon plant herbs and vegetables.
by: Nat Kaemmerer Staff Writer

How does the Paradise Center’s garden grow? Within the next year, it should be with edible herbs and vegetables. 

The Paradise Center received a $2,000 grant from the Longboat Key Garden Club for an edible garden, which they’ll start after the dog days of summer. Executive director Suzy Brenner is starting the next steps of finding a site on the center’s property, working with the Tidewell Foundation and their landscaping company and visiting St. Martha Catholic School to see their garden. 

“There isn’t really a public garden on Longboat Key that people can come and just garden if they don’t have their own yard,” Brenner said. “It can be a very social activity and it’s good for physical health, mental health, all the things we like to do. If we do some kind of edible garden we can make it useful.” 

This isn’t the first edible garden the Garden Club has funded. The garden at St. Martha’s that Brenner will visit got started from the same grant initiative a few years ago, and is now flourishing to the point students and teachers harvest the vegetables for farm-to-cafeteria meals. They also started a butterfly garden at the school. 

“Those kids and teachers are teaching other teachers and kids and not only that, but our demographic on Longboat Key to help them start their own garden,” Garden Club President Susan Phillips said. “It’s kind of a mentor program on 'here’s how you build, what you build, what’s gonna be successful.' You’ll also see the younger demographic helping the seniors, which is in itself another nice lesson.”

Raised beds will make it easier for gardeners with mobility issues. The grant money will be to construct those beds and buy the soil and plant material. 

For now, the proposed site for the garden is the southeast corner of the Paradise Center, so it can get some shade and full sun. Brenner will also work with the community and school gardens coordinator for Sarasota County to get access to seminars on successful gardening. Even though they’re not a public community garden, the area’s coordinators are happy to share the wealth of knowledge to increase sustainability in Sarasota. 

“Other than that, I won’t be having a lot to do with it because I have a black thumb, so I won’t be in charge of keeping the plants alive,” Brenner said. “I will be relying on people with green thumbs.”

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