Round Rock residents learn how to grow, donate food at Unity Park Community Garden

Cara Wellner started growing seasonal vegetables in Unity Park Community Garden nearly three years ago to teach her children healthy eating habits.

“I figure if they’re growing the food, they will be more apt to want to eat it,” Wellner said. “That has definitely been the case.”

In addition to learning about gardening and farming, Wellner said the garden presents an opportunity for her children, who are homeschooled, to get outside and give back to the community.

Besides providing rentable garden plots for those without the space at home, the community garden supplies fruits and vegetables to the Hope Alliance and Round Rock Area Serving Center.

Holli Haswell, board president of both Unity Park Community Garden and Neighborhood Harvest Project in Round Rock, said the garden was founded in 2009 by Jeff Ferris of the radio talk show “Gardening Naturally,” although he is no longer affiliated with the project. Before that time, Haswell said there was no community garden in Round Rock.

Haswell said several of the 44 plots located in the garden are set aside as pantry plots, and that the produce grown there is donated. Those plots are all cared for by volunteers, she said.

“The whole volunteer effort is keeping this place active and running, cleaning out the shed or mowing the grass,” she said. “The main thing is attending these pantry plots. That’s where we grow all this food that we donate to the Round Rock Serving Center.”

In a given year, the garden donates more than 1,000 pounds of produce to these causes, Haswell said. Volunteers can expect to provide assistance to the garden on designated work days. Community gardeners are also required to provide 10% of their harvest for donation.

Since its founding, the garden has been hosted by the Baha’i Faith Center, which also provides water for the garden. Garden Manager Les Robertson said several changes were made to the garden this past year to combat water loss amid the summer drought, which limited the size of some produce grown. However, the garden was able to donate over 300 pounds of watermelon to the serving center.

Wellner said she used a shade cloth to prevent her plants from drying out.

“We have definitely had a lot of over-100-degree days,” she said. “That was just another learning curve that we needed to overcome with using some type of shade cloth over our vegetables. I really can’t imagine how farmers with acres and acres of vegetables—you just have an appreciation for them and what they’re going through.”

Both Wellner and Robertson said it can become frustrating for new gardeners who are still learning, but it is important to be persistent.

“Gardening is all about experimentation,” Robertson said. “You keep trying. If it doesn’t work; don’t do it that way next year; do it a different way. We get to be better gardeners as we do more and we learn what not to do.”

Rental pricing

The majority of the plots in the Unity Park Community Garden are for rent, with gardeners able to rent for variable periods of time.

• One-time first-time gardener fee: $25

• 4’x12’ plot: $18 yearly rental

• 4’x20’ plot: $30 yearly rental

Unity Park Community Garden

2746 Gattis School Road, Round Rock

www.nhpnetwork.org/unity-park-cg

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