Andrea Carter’s regrets planting too late for strawberries last year. “There is nothing like the taste of a strawberry off the vine,” says Carter.
Carter created a container garden in a vacant lot on N. Peach St. The lot was filthy. “I knew no one would want to eat something grown in that soil. ” says Carter. During the weeks she spent cleaning and weeding the front half of the lot, she drove around on trash days and collected enough containers, crates, and plastic bottles to begin transplanting the seedlings.
Carter hoped the garden would interest the kids on the block. She set up a portable greenhouse on her porch to grow seedlings. “I wanted to peek their interest,” Carter says. If they came to ask questions about the greenhouse, Carter would talk to them about the garden.
None of the eight children who helped last summer had ever grown anything. When I visited their garden last fall, I watched as they nervously tasted their first grape tomatoes off of the vine. Ethan, 10, wrinkled his nose and closed his eyes before putting the small red ball into his mouth. Zamir, 9, puckered his face as he watched Ethan brave the fresh food. Angel, 12, was more composed and curious. She nibbled thoughtfully, taking tiny bites from the small fruit.
“Some of the kids on the block have it rough,” Carter explains. “The kids need something to do.” She devised a citizenship program and gave prizes, including digital tablets and a remote-control car, to the children who were “really, really helpful – not just in the garden, but at home and at school.”
Carter is not sure how many kids will come to help plant this weekend. Besides strawberries, she has seedlings for tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, zucchini, pole beans, carrots, peas, watermelon, cantaloupe, garlic and corn. Carter wants fresh strawberries, “If we don’t get something into the soil soon, we won’t have anything to harvest until fall.”