A community garden for Western Heights

Beth KinnaneOur Town Neighbors, West Knoxville

If you are passionate about gardening, one of the more lively local interest Facebook groups is Knoxville Area Gardening Tips. The posts range from lovely pictures of flowers and vegetables to questions about what to do about those pesky aphids or how to keep Peter Rabbit out of the lettuce patch.

Along with the expected promotions of area plant sales, there’s often discussion of plant and seed swaps or drive-by plants for free. Just over a week ago, this post went up, and the response has been generous and heartwarming:

“Help needed by area do gooders: I have a passion project where I want to plant a local public housing community center with local plants. If interested in donating, message me. Looking for transplants or whatever you want to give. Will also take houseplants and starters.”

The post was made by Lisa Higginbotham, special projects coordinator for the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC). The community center she’s working on is Western Heights,

Higginbotham said she was working with Knoxville’s Community Development Corporation (KCDC), CAC Beardsley Farm and CAC AmeriCorps to prepare an area for planting with tilling and mulching. The clearing and tilling has already begun. Higginbotham recently posted an updated:

“The response has been overwhelming! Thank you all so much, 15 folks have responded with a variety of plants. We now have enough to possibly do 2 locations!”

Higginbotham said the number of people/groups donating plants is now over 20.

“The folks who donated are giving herbs, native plants and perennials,” she said. “This includes iris, blue salvia, coreopsis, tiger lilies, yarrow, bee balm, chamomile, feverfew, hyssop, comfrey sunflowers, columbine … just to name a few of those donated.”

The mulching, planting and gathering with Western Heights residents will happen on Friday, May 13, from 2:30-4 p.m. Rylie Douglas, the open spaces coordinator for KCDC, is organizing preparation of the space as well as volunteers. She made the following statement:

“I am interested in building accessible spaces with a focus on environmental education and restoration by using community resources and our partnerships. It is vitally important for us to not only take care of each other by creating something beautiful but to extend our concept of community to more than just humans. Instead of separating ourselves from nature, I am working to address access needs and resource scarcity by bringing our open spaces and native ecosystems to our communities.

“It is our organizational mission to solve problems around food insecurity within our communities and to take care of one another. By building community gardens, food forests and places to be with family and friends that are safe and connect us to the environment around us, I wish to address ideas of neighborhood access and conservation. We create community gardens with the idea of supporting much bigger ecosystems. To take care of both ourselves and the world around us.

“My personal goal at KCDC is to remove barriers of food insecurities and reframe how we utilize green spaces to benefit our communities now and in the future.”

Beth Kinnane is the community news editor for KnoxTNToday.com.

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