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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Growing Local: Area Community Gardens Are Sprouting Up

Oct 31, 2011 09:39AM ● By Yvette Lynn

Today, throughout 18,000 community gardens cited by the American Community Gardening Association, thousands of novice and experienced gardeners are talking, blogging and posting stories online about their gardening experiences. Their Tweets and descriptions aren’t limited by dictionary definitions—these individuals are experientially learning that a garden is more than a plot or fertile piece of ground for cultivation.

To teachers, students, neighbors, friends and family members of all ages that dig, hoe, till and tend, the garden has become an oasis of gentility, a place to cultivate friendships and interact with nature. It’s also a sanctuary for sanity in a troubled world, a respite for replenishing the soul and a venue for bonding—a place that can be integral to preserving the fabric of a neighborhood or city.

With gardening season now in the earliest planting stages, Natural Awakenings found a number of opportunities in Collier and Lee counties where individuals can join the fun by volunteering or renting space in an existing garden. It’s not too late to grab a trowel, share an earthy connection and learn where your food really comes from, in any one of our area’s seven community gardens.

Garden at Eden Organic Farm

From October through May, John Puig rents plots at the Eden Florida’s Eimerman Education Center gardens for $100, which includes garden tools, compost tea and the option to purchase fertilizer at Puig’s cost. He also offers a six-week introduction to organic gardening. “We had a lighter showing than last year, which means that I now have space for 14 more individuals interested in tending their own plot, and room for 20 who are interested in the classes,” says Puig.

Happehatchee Community Garden

Twelve gardeners can enjoy the fruits of their labors at the Happehatchee Community Garden. The large plot, with 30-foot-long rows, is managed by Sam Periano, a Bonita Springs resident. A $100 donation to Happehatchee is the cost per row, and includes mulching and water from a drip irrigation system.

Heartland Gardens

A one-acre community garden tended by volunteers, Heartland Gardens is a charitable and educational not-for-profit corporation founded in 2010 by Lee County residents Bernard Pino and Andrea Guerrero. A raised labyrinth contains separate beds, used as a community garden, as well as a food bank. The garden hosts interactive classes
and workshops.

Lakes Park Community Garden

In association with Lee County Parks and Recreation, Lakes Park Community Garden is the first phase of the formal Lakes Park Botanic Garden and has 69, four-by-eight-foot raised garden beds with annual rental fees of $50 each. Proceeds benefit the Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation. Community citizens are required to sign an agreement to uphold the regulations of the garden, including restrictions on the use of pesticides and fertilizers; pledge to maintain the community garden plot; and attend a quarterly meeting. Gardeners supply their own tools and plants. Roy Beckford, a Florida agriculture and natural resources agent in Lee County, offers a variety of courses in best practices for good yields from the garden plots. Sixteen beds are still available.

Park Place 717

The 2010 Naples Park Community Garden project has blossomed into Park Place 717, with 30, four-by-10-foot plots available for a $25 membership fee. Terry Kays, who oversees the project, advises that eight plots are already planted and that two beds are handicapped-accessible.

Roots Heritage Garden

Founded by Fort Myers resident Yvonne Hill, the Roots Heritage Garden helps the poor and homeless by teaching them to grow fruits and vegetables, so they can eat more healthfully and learn to be self-sufficient. Gardeners are able to sell what they grow at an onsite farmers’ market.

Unitarian Universalist
Children’s Garden

This organic vegetable, herb and fruit garden, located at the Unitarian Universalist Church, in Fort Myers, is intended primarily for the church community, but is available for anyone else interested in gardening.

Garden at Eden Organic Farm, 2801 County Barn Rd., Naples. Contact John Puig at Garden at Eden, Also visit or Facebook page [email protected].

Happehatchee Center, 8791 Corkscrew Rd., Estero. Call 239-206-4393 or visit

Heartland Gardens, 16836 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers. Call Andrea Gurrero at 239-689-4249 or visit Heartland

Lakes Park Community Garden, Lakes Park, 7330 Gladiolus Dr., Fort Myers. Call 239-533-7575 and visit

Park Place 717, 717 98th Ave. N., Naples. Contact Terry Kays at 239-207-7971 or [email protected].

Roots Heritage Garden, Cultural Heritage Center/Southwest Florida Enterprise Center, 3903 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Fort Myers. Contact Yvonne Hill at 239-464-9925 or [email protected].

Unitarian Universalist Children’s Garden, 13411 Shire Lane, Fort Myers. Contact Andrea Grace at 785-317-6586.

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