Started in February, 2009, the Arboretum organic community garden has grown into a major feature of the Arboretum program. The garden has become an especially important part of our volunteer program, hosting thousands of volunteer hours per year. Volunteers are the key to our success, because we could not operate such a successful garden without them. We are especially happy that our garden produce goes to help students in need through the Knights Helping Knights Pantry. The pantry provides UCF students in need with basic needs including food, clothing, and personal hygiene items. Finally, our garden is open to everyone in the UCF and Orlando community, so come come get your hands dirty and learn about growing food!
The Garden’s Journey
When UCF designated a plot of land for use as a community garden in 2009, it was a barren expanse of mulch and concrete debris. Consequently, we have had to amend the soil with large amounts of compost over the years, to turn it into the fertile garden that it is today. The garden fosters a diversity of seasonal crops, including: tomatoes, lettuce, melons and cucumbers, broccoli, onions, sunflowers, blueberries, mulberries, peaches, figs, potatoes, and a plethora of greens, medicinal and culinary herbs. Due to excessive heat in Florida’s summers, we are limited to plant heat-tolerant plants at that time such as: okra, eggplant, black-eyed peas, red-drop hibiscus, seminole pumpkin, malabar spinach, and heat-tolerant greens. In 2015, we began a new initiative with Wellness and Health Promotion Services under the name “FreshU—Grown by UCF”, to encourage students to adopt a more healthy diet.
Through working with volunteer offering various workshops, our knowledgeable and trained staff teach organic gardening techniques. We host Farm to Table Cooking Demonstrations with various partners, using produce the garden. More recently we began our Everyday Herbalism workshops to teach participants how to make various medicinal and botanical products using herbs and flowers from the garden. The Arboretum hosts educational garden tours for schools, and groups of all ages. If you are interested in any of these opportunities, please view our volunteer schedule, tour information, or email us for more information.
The community garden accepts donations of all kinds, including organic plants, seeds, mulch and fertilizers. Please contact us if you are interested in making a donation.