A community garden, like this one being built in Hyde Park, could soon be a reality in Oak Hill.
By Tony Tucci
Support for a community garden in Oak Hill is taking root, and interested gardeners are invited to attend a meeting Saturday, Jan. 21, to discuss possible locations.
Patrick Hamilton, an Oak Hill resident who is spearheading the effort, said the meeting will be held from 2 to 3:30 p.m at the Hampton Branch Library on Convict Hill Road. The library is one of the sites being mentioned for a garden. While no decision has been made, Hamilton said other sites that have been mentioned are Small Middle School, Bowie High School, and a three-quarter acre privately owned plot near Waldorf School.
“I think it’s really taking off,” said Hamilton, an experienced organic farmer who has worked mostly with orchards and wants to include some fruit trees in the community garden plan. “I’m hoping to be planting this spring, even if it’s only planting fences and water lines.”
Austin has 26 community gardens, but none in Oak Hill. The closest is Sunset Valley. Jake Stewart, head of the Austin community gardens program, said he will support any effort to locate a garden in Oak Hill.
Hamilton said he received about a dozen e-mails from people interested in a community garden as a result of a story published in the Oak Hill Gazette last month. His e-mail address is email@example.com, or he can be telephoned at (804) 615-0709.
Meanwhile, Hamilton said he has visited with a number of people to discuss a location for the garden.
“Small Middle School would be a great partner,” he said. The school has two environmental science teachers and a gardening program for students. However, he said the school could provide only several small spaces scattered around the campus rather than one contiguous space.
Chris Brooks, a Deer Park at Maple Run resident and one of the teachers at Small, said he thinks the school would welcome a community garden on school grounds. “It would be a great opportunity to promote closer ties between the community and the school,” he said.
Jo Ann Kugle said she is very interested in having a community garden on about three-quarters of an acre of land near her home on Southview Road, about two and a half miles west of the Oak Hill ‘Y’ off U.S. Highway 290.
“We have about 10 acres of land here, most of it heavy forest, but this parcel gets full sun and would be ideal for a garden,” she said. She has lived on the property with her family for 35 years, and she has always wanted to put a garden there.
“I think a lot of people are thinking about being sustainable and self-sufficient,” she said, adding that she and her husband started raising chickens last year and now have four hens that produce about two eggs a day.
She said it would be great to get some expert advice to teach her and others about gardening. “The first thing we’d have to do is build a fence to keep out the deer and the rabbits,” she said.
Dwight Littleton, 66, is an old hand at gardening. He can’t garden at his home in Granada Hills, however, because of the deer. “There are only a few plants that the deer won’t eat,” he said.
For about 10 years, he leased some land for a garden on South Lamar Boulevard from the Salvation Army. The land was sold about a year ago to a developer, and Littleton and other gardeners were forced out. Littleton said he managed to get another space behind the It’s About Thyme nursery at Manchaca and Frate Barker roads because he’s friends with the owner.
“I’ll be at the meeting (Jan. 21), and I’ll bring a bunch of my friends who want to garden, too,” he said.
Hamilton, who lives in the Scenic Brook neighborhood and has worked professionally on six organic farms, said he sees the community garden as an opportunity for residents to learn about growing their own food organically. He said both the Sustainable Food Center and Austin Community Gardens have offered to help.
“It’s all kind of up in the air right now, but I’m excited about the response I’ve been getting,” Hamilton said.