A partnership among First United Methodist Church of Gonzales, Ascension Master Gardeners and a horticultural agent resulted in a recent abundant harvest.
That partnership was formed by church members after they were challenged by the Rev. Mark Goins to start a “cool impossible” mission in February 2014.
Members of the congregation decided on a garden to supplement the church’s ongoing food pantry with fresh produce, to be a source for others to learn about gardening and to be a resource for FUMC’s Little Lambs day care as hands-on experience about how food is grown, June Thomas said.
To fund the project, members solicited contributions from local merchants. Home Depot contributed $50; Louisiana Nursery gave a $500 store credit; Outdoor Living, along with the Brock DeLoach family, donated all the soil for the project; and Picou Builders donated building materials for the raised garden beds.
The committee decided to build the garden on the north side of the education building in the grassy area facing the First Baptist Church.
For better communication with the busy committee members, Kelli DeLoach set up a Facebook page for the group, Thomas said.
Brock and Kelli DeLoach designed and spearheaded the building of the garden plot on a hot Saturday in August. Many church members helped, so the beds were built and filled with soil in one morning. Pavers were placed around the beds for ease of maintenance, and a cross with benches was built in the center for anyone to sit and enjoy the garden.
Broccoli, cabbage, kale, carrots, squash and bunch onions were planted in mid-October. Members soon noticed that the shadow of the education building extended over more and more of the garden beds. By late December, none of the garden got direct sunlight. The winter crop output for the first planting was sparse.
Brock DeLoach contacted Craig Roussel, Ascension Parish’s AgCenter horticultural agent after a soil test discovered a problem with the pH. Roussel suggested a solution for the lack of sunlight issue, and church members planted a spring garden in March.
The spring planting included tomatoes, bell peppers, yellow squash, cucumbers and eggplant because they easily could be harvested twice a week in conjunction with the Monday and Thursday openings of the food pantry.
This time, the harvest was abundant, Thomas said.
However, birds started eating the ripening tomatoes. Bird netting only partially solved the problem. Also the plentiful rains of the spring caused the cucumber trellises to fall over with the weight of the many ripening cucumbers.
Church members were able to contribute produce to the food bank.
Church members who were not gardeners but who have participated in the building, maintenance or harvesting of the garden have learned from the Ascension Master Gardeners and other experienced gardeners who are part of this committee, Thomas said.
Children from the Little Lambs moms day out program made signs identifying various plants in the garden.
“This ‘cool impossible’ mission is successfully on its way to serving the community of Ascension Parish,” she said.