With its wood chip paths, bordered with overflowing low-lying plots, Culverhouse Community Garden smells like a gourmet kitchen. Located in Culverhouse Nature Park along the Legacy Trail, with 80 plots and 120 members ranging from 22 to “90-something” years olds, Culverhouse is one of the largest community gardens in Florida. All organic, all the time, Culverhouse has members who pitch in 16 hours of communal work per year to enjoy the freedom of their private plots and gardener community. The chores are shared, the education is never-ending and “the only competition is between the gardeners and the critters,” says Carol Russell, a volunteer co-manager of the garden who recently lost 11 eggplants to a troop of hungry squirrels. Yet, Russell shrugs off her loss, for it’s simply part of the gardener life.

Photography by Wyatt Kostygan


Every community garden member gets their own plot—small, medium or large, depending on their initial level of expertise. With succulents at the entrance of the garden--and orchards of cherries, lemons and avocados bordering it—the possibilities seem endless for what can flourish within: sweet potatoes, papayas, sunflowers, pineapples, celery, figs and nasturtiums (even loofah—the familiar shower sponge once mature, but a tender zucchini-like snack when first harvested). Some plots are private, some are shared and some are reserved for a higher purpose--like the special plots reserved specifically for growing food for All Faiths Food Bank. But, regardless of their official ownership status, all plots are communal. Gardeners freely meander and pick a sprig or two of an unknown herb, or try a leaf of a curious-looking arugula or lettuce from a gardening neighbor. “Our lives didn’t change much,” says Russell, referring to the “new normal” brought on by the pandemic. “When you come, you work while you talk.” Now, gardening life is simply more at a distance—brainstorming recipes, discussing agronomy and attending classes hosted by fellow gardeners--all while the plants and people grow together.   SRQ

Culverhouse Community Garden: culverhousegarden.org, @culverhousecommunitygarden