Archived Story

Courtland center offers raised box gardening

Published 10:20am Wednesday, May 8, 2013

by Chris Drake

From left, Ricky Johnson and his wife, Rheila, and Chris Drake with Southampton County Cooperative Extension. Drake is demonstrating proper seed placement for kale in raised box gardens. -- SUBMITTED PHOTO
From left, Ricky Johnson and his wife, Rheila, and Chris Drake with Southampton County Cooperative Extension. Drake is demonstrating proper seed placement for kale in raised box gardens. — SUBMITTED PHOTO

When you think of healthy living, would your mind ever wander to Zumba classes and raised box gardens in the same sentence? I doubt those two ideas are often intertwined when thinking of ways to promote a healthier lifestyle. If you ride to the Courtland Community Center in the next few weeks, you might see this idea realized in the form of fresh kale, squash, tomatoes, and peppers.

This project is made possible through the efforts of a local Zumba class that is held every Monday evening at the Courtland Community Center. Group leader and Courtland resident Maxine Nowlin contacted her local extension office about the possibility of creating some raised box gardens to grow fresh produce to be consumed by members of the class and the center. Both of these activities are elements of healthy lifestyles that are promoted by the Courtland Community Center. The Zumba class and the gardens are made possible by local grants from the Camp Foundation and Franklin-Southampton Charities. These grants were applied for by members of the center and granted contingent upon initiatives to promote healthier living in the Courtland community. The center promotes healthy living through exercise, reading activities, and now by promoting a diet rich in fresh vegetables.

Virginia Cooperative Extension Agent Chris Drake has assisted the members of the class and the center in developing a plan to install these raised box gardens. The dry, sandy soil in the yard was not suitable for garden production; therefore raised boxes filled with rich topsoil were built adjacent to the center. After the six boxes were filled with local topsoil, fertilizer was hand sewn and incorporated in the soil. There will be a variety of crops planted to include snap beans, kale, tomatoes, squash, peppers, okra, and zucchini. These simple wooden box frames are 10 foot by 10 foot square filled with 18 inches of topsoil. They are constructed of treated 2×10’s with 4×4 posts in each corner. It requires about 5.5 tons of soil or 150 cubic feet to fill a box of this nature. The gardens were fertilized with about a pound of 10-10-10 granular fertilizer, which equates to roughly 40 units each of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium on a per acre basis. Once planted with seeds or transplants, these crops will be watered, fertilized, and managed based upon recommendations from Virginia Cooperative Extension. The youth at the center helped with filling the gardens with topsoil this past weekend. The remainder of the topsoil will be shoveled in by the ladies of the Zumba class. Planting will begin as soon as the rainy spell subsides and favorable conditions appear to seed the crops. Group leader Maxine Nowlin commented “this is a great way to get community members actively involved in the production of fresh produce with the added benefit of encouraging healthy diet and exercise”. The Zumba class is held every Monday night and is free and open to the public. If there are questions concerning raised box gardening, contact Southampton County Cooperative Extension at (757) 653-2572 or email chrisd17@vt.edu.

CHRIS DRAKE  is the agriculture and natural resource agent for Southampton County and can be reached at chrisd17@vt.edu.

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