Beyond the Build

Team Building

Our Garden Is Going Organic

It’s been interesting to see our garden take shape over the five years we’ve been here on Overton Road. We started with a small tomato area in 2009. Two years later, we had more than 10 types of plants and herbs just outside our offices.

In 2012, we hired a recent college graduate as a part time gardener to manage the crop. He did a great job increasing our variety and yield. After our team took what they needed for their families, we donated the extras to Jessie’s Place, a local shelter for women and children.

At season’s end, Sam decided to head to Washington State for graduate school, where he is now pursuing environmental studies.

This year, when it came time to find a gardener, we saw a pattern developing. Our garden is turning into an incubator of sorts, for folks wanting a starting place for a career in horticulture.

We were pleased to see so many resumes pour in for the job. While it was hard to choose just one, we gravitated toward two unique individuals who have just finished their college experience in Maine.

Katherine Murray and Matthew Smith, who will work in tandem, are in the process of starting Magic City Gardening. They have organic gardening experience in several different countries as well as in Boston, MA on Waltham Community Farms. These two needed a foot in the door here in town, and we’re glad to be their showplace.

Here are a few innovations they have on the radar for this year’s summer crop:

  • All organic. In the past, we’ve grown as natural as possible, but this is our first year to make that effort official. Captain Compost was onsite this week, bringing us fresh organic material for our beds.
  • International Garden. Katherine and Matthew will be grouping produce by regions to create an easy platform for making culturally-focused meals. They plan to introduce the Native American “Three Sisters” concept, where corn, beans and squash are grown in close proximity because of their symbiotic relationship. Other regions include Italy, Thailand, the southern United States and Mexico.
  • Butterfly Garden.  They will be building a small contained areas for caterpillars to grow and mature. This will mean planting a few more more nectar producing flowers in the vicinity, and gives us an opportunity to help with the preservation of butterfly species.
  • New breeds. We are introducing small crops of plants we’ve never tried to grow here, with the intention of broadening our palettes.

It’s exciting to watch the garden take shape as we move into the growing season. If you stop by  to see us this summer, we’ll likely send you home with a few tomatoes.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

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