Community gardens have flourished in Oklahoma for years, and with new gardens cropping up all over, Oklahoma County Master Gardeners want to encourage the earth-friendly practice by offering workshops and instructions.
Though the ground is still cold and hard, winter is the time to begin serious planning for a successful spring garden.
Master Gardeners will offer a free Community Gardening Workshop to help groups such as neighborhood associations, schools, churches and civic organizations start and maintain community gardens.
The workshop, from 1 to 3 p.m. Jan. 28 at the Oklahoma County Extension Center, 930 N Portland, will include panelists Robert Henry, Oklahoma City University president; Tammy Gray-Steele, executive director for the National Women in Agriculture Association; Bob Palmer, photography professor at University of Central Oklahoma; Jerry Newhouse, former president of the Oklahoma Organic Gardening Association; Malarie Gotcher, extension associate in the Department of Horticulture and Landscape at Oklahoma State University; and Melvin Thompson, master gardener student and coordinator of the Del City Church of Christ Community Garden.
Henry, former chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, said some of his fondest childhood memories are of time spent at his grandparents' garden in Bethel Acres.
His grandparents, Alma and Tom Henry (also the grandparents of former Gov. Brad Henry; Robert and Brad are cousins), worked tirelessly on their farm, and so did the family, before and after school, Robert Henry said. “Everybody worked, all the time,” he said.
That work would enrich both the ground and the lives of family members.
They embraced sustainable practices such as rainwater collection systems for irrigation.
“She had a green hand, not a green thumb,” Henry said of his grandmother. She could break off a cutting, stick it in the ground and it would root, he said.
“My father (Lloyd Henry) spent the first half of his life trying to get off the farm and the second half trying to get back on it,” Robert Henry joked.
He remembers fondly a day his grandmother, then aged and frail, was tending her garden, huffing and puffing throughout the work.
“Grandmother, don't you think you should take a break from gardening now?” he asked.
“Robert, you'll never know how many sorrows I've buried in my gardens,” she said with the wisdom of a lifelong gardener.
Gardening is a passion in Henry's life, and since becoming Oklahoma City University's president, he's shared that passion by starting the OCU Community Garden on the campus, where students and faculty can grow to their hearts' content.