Gardeners plant experience, harvest enough vegetables to share


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Walter Fitzgerald loves to share his gardening knowledge.

Senior Life photo

Members of the Green Thumb Garden Club in Barefoot Bay are extremely proud of the wide variety of vegetables they grow in their community gardens. There’s typically enough produce for the gardeners’ own gastronomic pleasures, to share with friends and to donate to local food banks.

Walter Fitzgerald has been a Green Thumb member for 18 years and he is a valued resource to other club participants. His master gardening skills range from soil improvement to scaring rabbits away from his garden.

A snowbird from New York, Fitzgerald shares his love of gardening.

“I do this to keep my weight down,” he said with a chuckle, then added: “I like growing. I’m here every day, four hours each day.”

The majority of the gardeners tend their gardens almost daily  — watering, weeding and socializing. Mary Smythe, the vice president of the Garden Club, noted that “this is definitely a social gathering, as are our meetings. We get pride in doing this. The first couple of years, I couldn’t grow anything, and with help from fellow gardeners, I got better.”

Dick Bishop, a past president, emphasized the importance of proper garden maintenance in order to sustain quality and personal satisfaction.

“We cover gardens in summer with plastic to kill bugs and keep weeds down, and we regularly monitor the upkeep of all gardens,” he said.

Green Thumb, open to Barefoot Bay residents, was started 25 years ago — the founder is now deceased. The primary goal is to grow vegetables for members’ own use. There’s a one-time fee for lifetime access to one plot, of which there are currently 51.

Members establish their own rules, and ongoing issues are discussed at their monthly meetings. Garden Club participants enthusiastically share their gardening experiences and eagerly welcome those interested in learning about community gardening.

A community garden, as defined by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences (UF- IFAS), is a collaborative greenspace where the participants share in both the maintenance and the rewards. If you would like to join this long tradition of community gardening and form a garden in your community, you can obtain tips from the UF-IFAS website.