Worried About Supplies? Grow Your Own Produce at the Community Garden
While some in Canyon Lake scour social media to see which grocery stores and farmers markets have the shortest lines and freshest produce, others slip quietly over to the Community Resource and Recreation Center of Canyon Lake’s (CRRC) community garden on Mabel Jones Drive to water seedlings.
Deuce tomatoes and Aristotle bell peppers, among other vegetables like squash, kale, cucumbers, beans and onions, are just a few of the unlikely hometown heroes beginning to sprout in the bedding mix Jo Ed Lyles patiently shoveled into small community gardening plots several weeks ago.
In years past, he’s grown up to 800 pounds of fresh produce for the CRRC’s food pantry.
This year, the retired New Braunfels landscaper opened his garden to Canyon Lake residents who’d like to grow their own gardens with his help and expertise (and seeds). The only caveat is that produce that can’t be used by gardeners be turned over to the food pantry.
“I believe that, more than ever, the community garden is going to be important to the community members who are working it, as well as to the food pantry with what they are able to donate,” said Maureen Schein, CRRC’s development director. “There are so many unknowns in the months ahead. Any little thing people can do will be helpful.”
So far, 10 residents have taken the CRRC and Lyles up on the offer to grow their own produce. A few others are contemplating gardens at their homes (Lyles makes house calls).
On Friday, he was busy building new beds for others who find the idea of cultivating their own vegetables in the midst of a global pandemic a bit more enticing than they might have last spring.
Lyles said it’s not too late for others to sign up. Everything has a season, meaning Mother Nature has a vegetable that can be planted every month of the year.
He encourages rank amateurs to sign up for the experience. It’s hard to fail when the CRRC provides his expertise, seeds, garden beds and some fertilizer.
“I’m available any time. They can call me, email me, whatever it takes, as long as they’re willing to give a little of it to the CRRC.”
Vegetables that work well in the CRRC’s community garden include tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, bush beans, okra, eggplant, peas, squash, pumpkins, beets, broccoli, cabbage (“ah some delicious cabbage came out of here”), carrots, cauliflower, Swiss chard, radish, spinach, and kale.
Lyles said corn takes up too much space to be grown at the Rec Center, which is right across South Access Road from Tye Preston Memorial Library.
He’s planning to grow cantaloupe in a separate garden.
And bell peppers? A lot of people ask about growing green, yellow and red peppers.
Lyles said most people are surprised to learn that yellow and red peppers are just green peppers left to ripen on the vine a bit longer.
This year he’s experimenting with a new variety of green pepper that has a propensity to turn quicker.
“Leaving the pepper on a line a little longer doesn’t give the CRRC more food,” he said.
Community gardeners can care for their plots at any time during the day, but Lyles is only available during the early morning. He knows what heat stroke feels like, and isn’t interested in making any trips to the emergency room this summer.
Thinking About a Home Garden?
Lyles said you’ll need gardening soil that’s 12 inches deep. As for the recommended size of a plot? Any size works, he says. Beds, he adds, can easily be constructed from lumber, stones or just about anything else that can keep a lot of dirt in place.
Over at the Rec Center, a typical 64-square-foot plot is four feet wide and 16-feet long.
“You can grow a ton of things,” he said.
Stone Crafters on FM 2673 sells bedding soil by the cubic yard, and can deliver it to your house if you don’t own a pickup truck, Lyles said. A pickup truck holds one cubic yard of soil.
If you’re wondering how much soil you need — call him.
Lyles adds home gardeners needn’t worry about having a fence to protect their garden from deer. Deer netting is sold in area stores.
For more information, email Lyles at firstname.lastname@example.org