Floridata Article

A tour of an Urb Farm in Jacksonville

Victoria Register-Freeman 
	standing on the back porch of her B & B, the house on Cherry St. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
Victoria Register-Freeman standing on the back porch of her B & B, the House on Cherry St. To her left is a view of the river beyond the gardens. A privacy curtain painted by local artist, Jim Draper, hangs across the end of the back porch.

For years I've met up with Victoria Register-Freeman at local garden-orientated events in the area and I'd heard her describe the community garden between her B & B and the St. Johns River, but I hadn't visited until a couple of weeks ago. It was in the middle of the summertime doldrums, but still a lot was growing here.

Victoria tells of the day that a neighbor, who wished to have a garden, said to her, "I wish I had your light." Victoria replied that she could. And that was the beginning of turning an expansive lawn between the house and the river into a community garden. There is still some lawn area, but it's interrupted by a number of raised beds, garden sculptures, and compost bins encased in twig enclosures. This made her an accidental urban gardener.


Jacksonville's skyline is clearly visible from the gardens. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
Jacksonville's skyline is clearly visible from the gardens. Hence the name "Urb Farm;" it's located in Riverside, an urban neighborhood on the west side of the St. Johns River.


The "UrbFarm" sign and a list of chores on the blackboard welcome visitors to the garden. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
The "UrbFarm" sign and a list of chores on the blackboard welcomes visitors to the gardens.
Weeding is a permanent entry.


Organic grower sign. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
Organic grower sign. Victoria has been involved with the Florida Organic Growers Association (FOG: www.foginfo.org) and served as its president.


The compost god looks out for the lettuce seedlings growing in a pot and getting ready for the cool weather. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
The compost god supports a vine wreath and looks out for the lettuce seedlings growing in a green pot and getting ready for the cool weather.
Lettuce doesn't do well in Florida's hot summers, but starting the lettuce in a cool shady spot will provide a head start on the fall season.


ictoria stands by her whimsical "Grow" sculpture. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
Victoria stands by her whimsical "Grow" sculpture next to some of the raised beds, which are marked off in one-foot squares, because she uses square foot gardening to save space. Square-foot gardening just seems to fit an urban area like this instead of long rows of crops.
("Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholomew.)


Sack gardening saves space. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
Another space-saving growing technique is to use those $.99 cloth bags from the grocery store as soft-sided pots. The one shown in this photo sports a mixture of blue sage and white petunias.


Container gardening. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
Victoria built plank-sided containers and placed them on the patio table as an experiment in handicapped-accessible gardening.


The table-top cucumbers are doing well. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
The tabletop cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are doing well, with no stooping to pick them.


The St. Johns River is always in the background. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
The St. Johns River provides a beautiful background for a beautiful garden. So while there are plenty of vegetables grown here in season, there is still room for some decorative flowers to brighten up the space including this nice stand of crinum lilies beyond a large rosemary bush.


Container gardening. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
Florida natives, blanket flowers (Gaillardia pulchella) were covered with pollinators, the butterflies and bees.


Thanks go to Victoria and all the urban farmers. They are making a real difference!


Ginny Stibolt moved to northeastern Florida in 2004 and even though she's a botanist and lifelong gardener, Florida gardening was a shock. She started writing The Adventures of a Transplanted Gardener columns for the Times Union newspaper in Jacksonville. This is one of those columns archived here on Floridata.com for your enjoyment. Now she's written three Florida garden books published by University Press of Florida: Sustainable Gardening for Florida, 2009; Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida with Melissa Contreras, 2013, and The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape, 2015. Check out her blog for the latest news and articles: www.GreenGardeningMatters.com

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