Andrea D. Carter

Andrea D. Carter, block captain of 100 N. Peach St. built a container garden in a vacant lot and works with kids to grow fresh fruits and vegetables.

Andrea D. Carter, block captain of 100 N. Peach St. built a container garden in a vacant lot and works with kids to grow fresh fruits and vegetables.

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.

Last summer, Carter created a container garden in a vacant lot on the 100 block of 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 could talk to them about the garden.

None of the eight children who helped last summer had grown anything before. When I met them last fall, they watched each other nervously taste 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.

“The kids need something to do,” Carter explains. “Some of the kids on the block have it rough.” She devised a citizenship program for the kids that helped in the garden. She gave prizes 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.”