5 places

Top Five Places to Learn to Grow Food

Gardening – like many activities – has both its good and bad aspects. Lawns and exotic plants that need fertilizer and pesticides can have a negative impact on the bay. But Florida-Friendly gardening can create habitat for wildlife, become the focal point of a traditional landscape and provide food for your family. Tampa Bay is incredibly lucky to have at least four year-round programs set up to help residents start from scratch – even if you don’t know broccoli from beans.

1. Florida Botanical Gardens at the Pinellas County Extension in Largo

The farmer kid with vegetablesPerhaps the most expansive of the demonstration gardens in the region with 30 acres of diverse plantings, the FBC offers something for everyone – even if you garden in containers. Staffed with professionals and scores of volunteers, it’s open nearly every day of the year with special areas dedicated to vegetables, tropical fruit, native plants, butterflies and even wetlands planted to entice wildlife. http://www.flbg.org/

2. The Bette S. Walker Discovery Garden at the Hillsborough County Extension in Seffner

Another option to discover the numerous alternatives for Florida-Friendly Landscaping, the garden is a “living lab” where Florida-Friendly Landscaping is highlighted in distinct themes with hundreds of plantings along with different types of pavers, mulches, trellises and seating. The newest addition is a pollinator garden planted by Girl Scouts to encourage other people to grow attractive plants that benefit bees. The gardens are open most weekdays and tours can be scheduled in advance.  http://hillsborough.ifas.ufl.edu/residential_lg/walker_garden.shtml


  1. Winter vegetables growing in a garden including Broccoli, Rhubarb, Cabbage and Red Cabbage

    Winter vegetables growing in a garden including Broccoli, Rhubarb, Cabbage and Red Cabbage

    3. Beacon Community Garden and Food Forest in Clearwater

Sprawling across the back parking lot of the Unitarian Universalists of Clearwater campus, the Beacon gardens focus on “permaculture” – or long-term food sustainability with minimum inputs of water, fertilizer and time. Fruit trees and perennial plants like chaya and yams are mixed with more traditional vegetables to increase harvests without additional space. Plots are available on a first-come, first-serve basis – or via a waiting list if the garden is full. Retired archaeologist Jay Hardman (now a certified permaculturist) works the gardens on Wednesday afternoons to help newbies, and a “Fourth Friday” potluck event held monthly introduces the concept to neighbors. https://www.facebook.com/groups/307529436018303/?hc_ref=SEARCH

4. Sustainable Living Project, across the street from Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa

The Sustainable Living Project, once an empty plot where homeless people lived in make-shift huts, now provides hundreds of pounds of food per month to homeless people as well as exclusive “farm to table” restaurants in the region. A project of Tampa Bay Harvest, the garden is 100% solar powered and features a wide variety of planting options from standard raised beds (with nearby composting bins) to hydroponics, aquaponics, chickens and native food plants. Visitors are welcome on weekend mornings and plans are underway for a series of more formal classes later this year. https://www.facebook.com/SLPTampa/?hc_ref=SEARCH

Growing watermelon, outdoor

Growing watermelon, outdoor

5. Ninth Annual Sustainable Living Conference in Plant City

For a more intensive experience, check out the Sustainable Living Conference in Plant City March 17 to 19 with programs on permaculture, sustainability, homesteading, and native edible and medicinal plants. https://www.facebook.com/events/266044930497900/


If you’re ready to start planting right now, the University of Florida publishes comprehensive lists of vegetables and annual flowers that can be planted month by month. Here’s the updated list for March:


Learn more about Beacon Community Gardens and the Sustainable Living Project in our archives at http://baysoundings.com/urban-agriculture-grows-up-in-tampa-bay/

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