Free Victory Garden Workshop Series

Date Posted: 2009-11-20
Tags: victory garden, planting, workshop series, sustainable yard

Reviving Past: Victory Gardens Become a Thing of the Present

Sustainable Yards Series
Free Victory Garden Workshop Begins Nov. 28, 9am – 5pm

Twigs & Leaves Nursery St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.-In the early to mid part of the 20th Century, the US Government encouraged citizens to plant Victory Gardens to reduce the pressure on the public food supply brought on by the war effort. These home gardens also helped to improve morale on the home front. Eleanor Roosevelt cultivated the last major Victory Garden at the White House in 1943.

First lady Michelle Obama rekindled interest in Victory Gardens this spring when she and her family planted the seeds for the White House's largest 1,100-square-foot organic vegetable garden. Inspiring a host of suburban gardeners to do the same in economic hard times.

Beyond the Pennsylvania Avenue, Victory Gardens seem to be catching on across the US and in the Bay Area.

"Gardening is catching on in these rough times not just because of its economic implications but it is good for individual well-being," said Matt Fahy, a Masters student in licensed mental health counseling. "Exercise, improved nutrition and stress reduction are all added benefits to gardening not to mention the sense of accomplishment.  These benefits help in these uncertain times," said Fahy, whose studies emphasize horticultural activities as simple solution to improve a person's quality of life.

Fahy will help seasoned and aspiring organic gardeners learn to plan and plant their own Victory Gardens as part of an four-part series beginning November 28, lectures are from 1-3pm at Twigs & Leaves Nursery, 1013 9th (Dr. Martin Luther King) Street South, Saint Petersburg, FL 33701.

Attendees can learn the history of victory gardens and how they are relevant in today's economy, environment and the social benefits.

"These gardens saved resources, provided food, reduced environmental stress from the agricultural industry, bound communities together and helped our troops achieve victory abroad. Today, the troubles we face have changed, but this tool can help us to overcome them." said Fahy.

This Saturday only, attendees can receive free preliminary landscape consultations, 10% off all plants and edible/native landscape design/installation and a chance to win a free 4X8 Butterfly Garden.

The Victory Garden series continues every Saturday from Dec 5-19 from 9am-5pm with a free seminars from Sustainability to Wellness and more.

For more information call Matt Fahy, 727.488.2597 or email


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Returning to a native state

Natives like sandcord grass, silver palmettos and pineland lantana now fill a St. Petersburg yard where nonnative grasses and plants once lived. And died. Facing west, the sun scorched them.

Michael Manlowe majored in environmental studies at University of California at Santa Barbara, taking ecology and botany classes. Now he co-owns Twigs & Leaves, Tampa Bay's premiere native plant nursery.

"I take a planetary perspective," he said. "It's like being an earthling."

Planting with natives "lessens your footprint on the planet." Converts can drop the lawn service and create habitat for creatures like butterflies.

"We're putting the flora back in Florida. That's our goal," Manlowe adds.

Full story  from the St. Petersburg Times.

A Shift in the Landscape

A Shift in the Landscape
from the Tampa Bay Times

As water restrictions continue, more residents remove grass in favor of native plants that can weather dryness.

Right now, several Tampa Bay localities limit watering yards to once a week - a directive handed down by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the agency responsible for monitoring the area's water supply.

Floridians use an average of 150 gallons of water per person per day. That includes showers, dish washers, washing machines, drinking water and, yes, watering the lawn. What you might not realize is that more than half the daily amount goes to watering landscape.

That's why when water gets low, the first thing officials do is clamp down on yard use.

Water restrictions, which have been in place for more than a year, are driving more and more residents to get rid of their lush, green lawns.

People like Victor Beaumont and his partner, Dean Richardson, said good-bye to the blanket of water-guzzling St. Augustine grass covering a small patch in front of their historic Kenwood bungalow this summer.

"They said it was hearty grass," said Beaumont, 61. "We thought, 'This is what people do here.'"

But the problems that came with it were many.

First, there were bugs. So they sprayed. Then the grass grew quickly and needed to be cut often. So they hired a gardener. Then the drought hit, and their green showpiece turned brown.

"It just got worse and worse," said Beaumont, a retiree from upstate New York. "We thought ... why not get rid of it and replace it with something more natural?"

The couple hired Twigs and Leaves, a St. Petersburg native plant landscape and nursery business. After ripping up the grass, they installed a black tarp and planted sunshine mimosa and seagrass.

Things like the orange tree and coconut are not native to the area. Neither is St. Augustine grass, which is native to coastal parts of Africa and the West Indies. It became a popular lawn covering in Florida during the late 1890s.

"It's water hungry," said Michael Manlowe, co-owner of Twigs and Leaves. "So people go and spend a few thousands dollars on their yard. And then water restrictions hit, and they're stuck."

True native plants, he notes, are things that grew here before European exploration.

Did you ever wonder where that whole idea of planting grass came from anyway, especially in a place that's dry half the year? It came from across the ocean.

A well-kept lawn was a European status symbol in the Middle Ages. English noblemen who didn't have to worry about growing food and raising animals on their land had lawns.

When Europeans began coming to America, they brought their grass with them. Several New England homes became odes to the English- garden way. With the large number of Northerners flocking to Florida, it's no wonder that the majority of yards feature the green blanket.

"People come down here and think that's what they should have," Beaumont said. "They think that's what a house is supposed to look like."

Manlowe and his business partner, Philippe Piquet, hope to show folks that native plants can be just as neat.

"When you say Florida natives, people think of a bunch of weeds," Manlowe said. "But ... I can make an English garden out of native plants."

- - -

Tampa Bay Water levels are at a record low, a result of two years of a shortage in rainfall, due partly to a cooling off of water in the eastern Pacific Ocean. It's a pattern that happens every four to seven years, said Granville Kinsman, manager of the hydrological data center for Swiftmud.

"It changes the weather pattern," Kinsman said. "But keeps moisture off us, which tends to dry us out."

So far, the worst drought on record occurred in 2001, Kinsman said. Since that time, the water supply has yet to rebound. In places like Charlotte County and Sarasota, water supplies are at dangerously low levels.

"We really don't know where it's going to go," he said. "We'll just have to watch it closely."

Increasing people's use of native plants would be a good way to deal with the worsening crisis, said Karina Veaudry, executive director for Florida's Native Plant Society.

"It's a simple remedy," she said.

- - -

The heightened watering restrictions could mean city and county code enforcement departments across the Tampa Bay area will have to change how they do their jobs.

"You can't enforce a brown lawn when you tell them they can't use water," said Jeff Kronschnabl, director of Clearwater's code enforcement.

Kinsman, with the water management agency, said restrictions could even get tighter.

"We could see it go from once a week to every other week," he said.

In Tampa's Westchase community, like many other deed-restricted communities, green lawn rules remain in spite of the drought.

That's because Westchase uses reclaimed water, said Ruben Collazo, the community's association president.

"We're very fortunate, but I would encourage my residents not to waste this precious resource and to be conservative," Collazo said.

There's no doubt, reclaimed water is better than potential drinking water for watering yards, but Veaudry says it's no substitute for simply cutting down on the need to water.

"There's a change in thinking that needs to occur about what we plant," she said. "It needs to be things that are friendly to the places we live."

Article from the Weekly Planet

St. Petersburg's midtown is leading the charge in the transformation to a green city.  Florida Native Nursery, Twigs & Leaves provides native habitat, changing Florida's future.  Full story -