- Associated Press - Sunday, April 16, 2017

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) - The tomato seeds Estela Smithwick planted in the YWCA’s new community garden didn’t make it.

The Corpus Christi Caller-Times (https://bit.ly/2opq9dl ) reports the 67-year-old lamented the week-old vine’s shriveled end, but was asked not to give up and instructed to replant the fruit.

With professional guidance, the garden will yield tomatoes, as well as cucumbers, squash, peppers, basil, sage, corn and beans, said Ronda Dizney, a Nueces County Master Gardener.

“I don’t have a green thumb for this here. All of this I have learned,” Smithwick said as she pointed at the 4- by 8-foot raised bed garden.

As a volunteer and having undergone the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Nueces Master Gardener program, Dizney was asked by YWCA of Corpus Christi’s president and CEO, Nancy Wesson-Dodd, to lead the first community garden at the Corona Drive site. Twelve seniors signed up for six classes and planted four gardens.

The group, whose oldest participant is 85, recently graduated from the program’s first phase. They planted their last bed.

The once-a-week lessons covered how to choose a garden location; soil and compost basics; how to set up raised beds and container gardens; garden maintenance; diseases and insects and the harvesting process, said Nueces County Horticulture Extension agent and course administrator Kevin Gibbs.

The classes are open to anyone, Gibbs said, adding a second class will kick off in the fall.

The biggest takeaway for Gibbs has been contributing to the “joy of people coming together to participate in something they love,” he said. And besides gaining authority over healthier food choices, the seniors’ gardened goods will actually taste better.

“Allowing vegetables to ripen on the vine yields a higher sugar content, which enhances the flavor,” Gibbs said.

Fresh-picked vegetables also are more nutritious, said Dizney.

“(Produce) has 400 percent less vitamins an hour after you pick it,” Dizney said. “(YWCA’s gardeners) get fresh food right out of the garden.”


Information from: Corpus Christi Caller-Times, https://www.caller.com

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