A boy harvests brussels sprouts. Photo by Rachel Chaney.
A boy harvests brussels sprouts. Photo by Rachel Chaney.

In 2010, a group of citizens began talking with the Alamo Heights City Council about creating an urban garden for the community to enjoy. The city granted them permission to create a garden located at the southeast corner of Ogden Lane and Imlay Street near the Judson Nature Trails. The first raised beds were built, installed, and planted in January of 2011. Since then, the community has enjoyed five years of continuous planting and harvesting as well as five years of friendship at the Alamo Heights Community Garden. For the past three years, my own family has enjoyed working in the garden.

“I love just meeting new people. I love the interaction and meeting new families. You have an instant group of friends over there. You just get to work together and chat and share,” said Linda Hallstead, one of the founders of the garden.

Friendships are forged as people work side by side — digging, planting, watering, fertilizing, and harvesting. Everyone shares the garden beds. They are not allocated to a family or a single participant. By sharing, we get lots of delicious variety, less plant duplication, and a greater sense of community as we work together. We rotate crops regularly to optimize soil health.

Three kids plant more lettuce. Photo by Rachel Chaney.
Three kids plant more lettuce. Photo by Rachel Chaney.

Active gardeners pool money together quarterly to pay for new plants and replenish supplies. A couple of grants have funded larger capital improvements. Generous citizens have given one-time gifts. The Green Spaces Alliance supports the garden by occasionally allocating supplies and plants that they have received.

A drip irrigation system waters the beds. Volunteers hand water the two fruit orchards that flank the beds. We use organic gardening practices, pest control measures, and fertilizers in the garden beds.

Vegetable scraps, grass clippings, fall pumpkins, coffee grounds, and egg shells become rich fertilizer in the compost bins.

Gardeners gather together on garden work days. These work days usually occur every Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. and monthly at some other designated time — usually on a weekend or in the evening. We work through a checklist as a group. A couple of garden leaders will assign jobs and guide those with less experience.

On a given garden work day, you might see one person weeding, another person planting tomatoes, and another pruning a bush in the butterfly garden. You might hear kids playing down in the creek bed that runs alongside the garden. Two women might be seated at the picnic table under a shade tree talking as they preserve seeds from dried flowers. A child might be helping to spread organic fertilizer on plants that have been just placed in the ground. “Mama” the dog might be stretched out soaking in the warm sun.

Karla Toye and her dog, Mama. Photo by Rachel Chaney.
Karla Toye and her dog, Mama. Photo by Rachel Chaney.

Work days are harvest days. After the work is done, we divide up the harvest to enjoy in our homes.

During other times in the week, the garden functions like a city park. Neighbors stroll through the garden in the evening on their way to the Judson Nature Trails. Kids swing underneath the large tree. People stop by to read a book from the Little Free Library. An artist paints the wildflowers growing around the perimeter of the garden.

Each year, several scout troops work on projects in the garden. All the students from Cambridge Elementary walk to the garden in the fall with their P.E. teachers to learn about gardening and about healthy eating.

The Alamo Heights Community Garden is a place to make a new friend, reconnect with a neighbor, learn something new, see something beautiful, and enjoy freshly grown produce.

You can learn more about the Alamo Heights Community Garden here.

Send us an email at info@ahgarden.org.

Please come to a garden work day and introduce yourself. We would love to have you.   

*Featured/top image: A boy harvests brussels sprouts. Photo by Rachel Chaney. 

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Rachel Chaney

Rachel Chaney is a photographer and native Texan. You can reach her at rachel@rachelchaney.com.