A Community Garden Takes Root
Like most living things, it’s taking a while to grow – especially while it’s first establishing itself. But now it has taken firm root in Bay St. Louis and is flourishing.
- story by Ellis Anderson and photography by Katharine Truett Ohman
“Ten years later, that memory of that yard was so strong that I painted this,” says Johnson of the design. “It is the only Katrina painting I have made in all those ten years. It is not of the destruction… but of this one yard full of "volunteers.”
The mural is part of a long-term plan for the garden, one that is geared to eventually engage the entire community. For instance, the garden is supported by several local organizations, including MS State Extension Service, Hancock County Master Gardeners, NAACP, and the Boys & Girls Club. All produce grown is donated to the Senior Center, along with other Hancock County food pantries.
“The mural is just one part of the big picture,” says Katharine Truett Ohman, who spearheaded the creation of the garden and organizes its maintenance. “Initially, we started with an edible forest. Now we have fruit trees, nine raised beds and twelve table gardens. We even have experimental grape vines and muscadines.”
The raised table gardens make it easy for handicapped or older gardeners to keep a hand in the gardening game without having to bend or kneel down. Christian Stephenson of the MS State Extension Service and Ohman are working on getting an irrigation system installed for the table beds so they can be put into use year-round, even during the warm weather months.
Donations of plants, seeds, soil and building materials continue to be received from across the state. Some of the materials are being slated for an educational area, where metal benches will make up an outdoor “classroom,” so instructional gardening programs can take place. Future plans call for a covering to shade the classroom too.
In the fall, after the weather cools, a call for volunteers will be issued for painters to help with creation of the mural. In the meantime, groups and individuals meet each Monday morning to weed, water and harvest the garden.
“Our volunteers are open and welcoming,” says Ohman. “We all seem to be grounded in the sense that this is what we need to be doing for our community. We’re taking baby steps now, but eventually, we’ll have a beautiful, flourishing community garden.”