Beth El Builds Community Garden

Beth El Builds Community Garden

By Tam Thompson

Everyone knows that just one plant – a lone tomato bush or a solo stalk of corn – does not create a successful garden. Tomatoes have less bug problems with marigolds nearby, and corn has to cross-pollinate with other corn, so solitary plants will not stay that way long. Instead, they represent the beginning of a community of plants that live, work and thrive together.

Just as a garden grows, so does the community that supports it. This April at Congregation Beth El, Tam Thompson began a long-term project, transforming the synagogue’s backyard into a community organic vegetable and herb garden. The garden will supply food for kiddushes and will provide a space where others can learn and enjoy gardening.

When Sunday school students heard about the garden, they jumped up and down and yelled that they wanted in on it, so the last few Sunday school classes of the year included hands-on skills, including transplanting cucumber plants from square cups into a raised bed and how to tell when a bed needs to be watered.

Adults in the congregation have also expressed interest in adding to their gardening repertoire, so Work and Learn days have been added to Beth El’s Sunday morning calendar. At the first Work and Learn day, held June 9, participants finished filling in a large raised bed, transplanted okra, yellow crookneck squash and a lemon pepper, and laid the foundation for drip irrigation in order to automate watering.

In the near future, Work and Learn gardeners will finish installing the drip irrigation. In the long term, the group may add an aquaponics pond with tilapia.

The big picture is that Beth El’s Community Garden will provide sustainable vegetables and herbs, and provide a beautiful place for children and adults of all ages to come together, visit, learn and enjoy G_d’s gifts of fresh, organic tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelons, Thai basil and okra. ■

For more information, contact Tam Thompson at tamthompsonim@gmail.com or 512-656-9038.

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