FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Military Families can exercise green thumbs at the Fort Rucker Community Garden.

Picerne Military Housing staff and installation leaders performed a ribbon-cutting ceremony April 15 for the 25-plot organic garden, located in Bowden Terrace off Baker Street.

"The kind of things Picerne does (is) unparalleled," said Garrison Commander Col. Yvette Kelley at the celebration. "Picerne is about listening to community wants and needs."

A resident-run garden has been on Community Garden Association President Staff Sgt. Jose Bonet's mind for a while now. He said he was proud to see his dreams finally come to fruition for Picerne residents.

"It's a great idea and a good Family activity," he said. "You can build friendships here and get to know your neighbors."

Garden rules are posted in front of the facility, Bonet said. Members' responsibilities include keeping their plots clean and organized and respecting others. He said large plants or trees are not allowed.

CGA Secretary Mandelyn McNutt said members decided to grow organically because it is "more nutritious and more earth-friendly and sustainable."

She said community members hope to begin a compost pile soon where they can bring scraps to use as fertilizers. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers are not allowed.

Water spouts are provided, but gardeners must furnish all hoses, watering cans, plants, seeds, tools and other supplies.

Regardless of their experience levels, residents are encouraged to sign up for plots when they become available, McNutt said.

"It's a good learning experience. It's a way to connect to the community, learn and share your knowledge," she said.

One resident exercising her budding green thumb is Challis Larson. She said coming from a Family of gardeners inspired her to try the hobby herself, she also noted she enjoys sharing it with her husband and young daughter.

"We feel it's important to be self-sustaining. The food is fresh, and it's a Family activity," Larson said.

Six-year-old Alexis Weipert recruited help from her mom, Meredith, in her first venture to plant potatoes, tomatoes, squash and strawberries. She said she prepared for the experience by buying child-sized pink tools and fertilizer, researching online and drawing plans for what she hopes her garden will look like.

Gardeners are charged a one-time $5 fee to obtain plots, McNutt said. For more information, call Bonet at 255-3632 or McNutt at 709-4492 or visit <a href="http://sites.google.com/site/ruckergarden/home" target="_blank">http://sites.google.com/site/ruckergarden/home</a>.

Page last updated Thu April 22nd, 2010 at 11:30