A new garden plot for disabled veterans will produce more than fruits and vegetables, its organizers say. It will also be a place of hope.

The 100-by-70 foot area near the entrance of the Fort Jackson Garden Plots on Washington Road, opened Friday after 10 weeks of planning and construction by the Southeastern Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Warrior Transition Unit in conjunction with the 165th Infantry Brigade.

"I wanted to introduce horticulture to other people with disabilities," said Mike Steward, a SPVA board member and a medically retired Air Force Senior Airman.

Steward, who also has a garden at his Columbia home, said tending plants and seeing those plants thrive can be encouraging to those with restricted mobility.

"I associated my life with that of a tomato plant (in my yard). If that plant can live, I can live," Steward said. "It's very therapeutic."

Soldiers of the 165th Infantry Brigade built raised plant beds, cement pathways and an aboveground sprinkler system for the site. A hardware store donated some tools for the project.

"We wanted to provide a functional area where they could easily access the plants, and it would provide them relief," said Spc. Justin Pierce. "We want it to be a recreational area to help them escape stress."

Tomorrow at 10 a.m., Steward said, he and other disabled veterans will gather at the plot and plant more fruits and vegetables. Collards, cauliflower, broccoli and strawberries are already growing in the garden.

Anyone who wants to dedicate plants and donate additional tools and equipment to the veterans' garden project is welcome, Steward said.

For more information about the veterans' garden plot, call Mike Steward at 629-5589 or contact the 165th Infantry Brigade.