Beyond the Build

Community Service

Our Graduate Gardener

This is the fourth year for our Community Garden. What started with a few tomato plants has expanded to fruit trees and a much larger vegetable patch.

New additions this year include:

Two large mounded beds. “Melon Mountain” will include six varieties of melons; “Squash Mountain” will be home to 5 varieties of squash and a handful of pumpkins. The seedlings are peeking out through small slits in their black weed covers.

A sprinkler system. Heads are mounted on poles throughout the garden, making watering far less labor intensive. We irrigate with water from our on-campus lake.

New plantings. We got creative this year. Beyond Alabama standards like tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, okra and peppers, we’re enjoying asparagus, blueberries and potatoes. Herbs are in full bloom.

A resting bench. Years ago, most cities used hewed stone for street curbs. On a recent project downtown, we unearthed some of these old curb structures. Three of these pieces have been formed into a garden bench, a place to rest a bit and enjoy the garden.

The most important addition is Sam Wilson, our gardener.

Sam is a recent graduate from Birmingham Southern College where he led a group of students, creating the school’s Community Garden. This project grew from a small raised bed operation into a working farm.

Like many college grads in this economy, Sam didn’t find just the right job fit upon graduation. He is between either graduate work or a full time career.

In the meantime, he’s with us a few hours each week, helping us. He is responsible for planting, harvesting and garden maintenance. Sam keeps our folks in the loop with regular email updates on the outdoors.

He’s proving to be a great asset to the team. He brought new gardening techniques and a fresh outlook to our Community Garden. We’re seeing his enthusiasm multiply through our team. In turn, we’re able to help him by providing short term employment.

As Sam said in his last email to our team, “This is your garden. Love it and it will love you back.” We’re seeing that in spades right now as we harvest potatoes, strawberries, asparagus, carrots, radishes, lettuce.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.