Posted February 15, 2017 12:31 pm - Updated February 15, 2017 12:59 pm

Making a Difference in the Community - Heart of Lubbock Community Garden

We want you to meet a new friend of ours, Beth Roesler, the inspiration behind the Heart of Lubbock Community Garden. Beth is a graduate student at Texas Tech University in Natural Resources Management who came to town with a vision of growing a community garden. When the management of the apartment she lived in said she couldn’t touch the weed-covered yard, she went searching for somewhere where she could share her love of gardening. When offered an empty lot at 21st and Ave X in 2013, she started the Heart of Lubbock Community Garden. 

The garden itself is on an empty corner lot in an older, modest neighborhood. It doesn’t look like much as you drive by it at this time of year, just another brown lot with bare trees. A walk around the property will show the work that has been put into the space. There is a shed for tools and storage, a small greenhouse, and a covered area with a rainwater collection system. A plot in the middle of the lot is staked out for row crops and an area surrounded with painted rocks serves as the herb garden. Trees, both fruit and ornamental have been planted. There is also a large composting area divided into bins with rules on what you can put in. If you drive through this neighborhood you will see that the garden is located next to the big orange carrot sign, which is the garden’s fundraising sign.   

Beth’s goals for the garden from the beginning have been to bring the community together with a common purpose of growing not only good local food, but building a healthier community as well. Neighbors working together make for a safer more connected community that reduces crime and encourages healthier eating. All are welcome and encouraged to contribute their kitchen scraps to the compost pile and work on anything that needs attention. There are no personal plots, just everyone working together to see what they can grow. Volunteers get first pick of the harvest, but the food is free and the neighbors can take any produce they can use. There are no fences!

Meetings are generally held on the first Thursday of each month to talk about what needs to be done. Taste Test Tuesdays take place on the third Tuesday of the month, where neighbors have a chance to try new recipes from the produce from the garden. Volunteer days are scheduled, as needed, usually 2 to 4 times per month. Anyone is welcome to any of these events whether you live in the neighborhood or not. Service organizations who come to get their volunteer hours in by working in the garden are especially appreciated. It is particularly fun when the kids come over from Dupree Elementary School to learn where food really comes from and to help make it grow. 

The Heart of Lubbock Community Garden practices rainwater harvesting because it saves money and conserves local water resources. They built a slant roof structure that is 15x30 feet with a gutter system. They collect the rainwater in a 250-gallon tank and six rain barrels. Their rainwater harvesting practices can collect 250 gallons of water with only one inch of rainfall. There are challenges in getting the water from the collection tanks to the garden. Currently, they are working with engineering-minded volunteers to implement a bike pump that would water the garden when someone pedaled. 

One of the effects of climate change has made for more erratic rainfall events and higher temperature swings. Just in recent years, total yearly rainfall in Lubbock, TX has swung from a total of 6.07 inches of rainfall in 2011, to 29.56 inches in 2015. Since the start of the community garden, the total amount of May rainfall has ranged from 0.39 inches in 2013, to 11.21 inches in 2015. Average temperature readings have been rising generally, but are widely variable from year to year. Gardeners have to pay attention to soil moisture, rainfall, and intensity of the sun if they want their gardens to be successful. Beth explained that she has to be flexible because each year the growing conditions are different and the crops that did well last year may not be as successful again next year.

The produce the community garden grows includes things such as peas, beans, carrots, tomatoes, okra, peppers, squashes, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce, Swiss chard, arugula, kale, peaches, plums, and watermelons. The garden also grows a purple and black locust tree, and three Texas redbud trees. It has been important to look for plants that are resilient to Lubbock’s climate to save time and money. The resilient plants in the garden include decorated trees like locust and redbud, peach and plum fruit trees, rosemary, sage, and kale. Some of the plants they have trouble with include fig trees, strawberries, and blackberries. 

The Heart of Lubbock Community Garden welcomes any individuals, volunteer groups, or organizations to come help maintain the garden and learn about gardening. If you want to join the garden or have a volunteer group that would like to help with the garden, contact lubbockcommunitygarden@gmail.com. We would encourage anyone interested to like their Facebook page to learn more about their upcoming events. Beth would like to thank all of the community members who come work on the garden, donate supplies and materials, and who make financial donations. She is grateful for Master Irrigation, the Garrison Institute for Aging, and the rest of the organizations and companies for all the contributions they have made to the garden. 

This blog was produced by TTU Climate Science Center and was written by Susan Gillette, Breanna McKercher, and Elizabeth Roesler.