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Posts Tagged ‘GIFT Gardens’

Give a GIFT Garden

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‘Tis the season to be jolly and as many of our readers know, one of the best ways to be jolly is in your garden! Why not share that gift of happiness this holiday season by giving a GIFT garden to someone you love or a family in need?

Each raised bed garden is made of locally sourced lumber lined with plastic to resist rot. Or if you’d rather, it can also be made out of pressure treated lumber. The beds are filled with rich organic compost, and will be provided with enough seedlings for a full year. Also included in your purchase is a year long membership to the Grow Gainesville seed library! What a gift!

To get started, choose the GIFT Garden size that best suits your site and budget:
4×4 $200
4×8 $350
2 4×8’s $500
3 4×8’s $650

The price of each GIFT garden also includes a $100 tax deductible donation towards our GIFT garden program.

For more information contact Travis Mitchell at or send in the application form below and someone will contact you promptly to arrange for a site visit.

APPLICATION FORMS (download will begin immediately):
Fundraising Garden Application
Landlord Agreement (required for renters)

Departmental Spotlight – GIFT Gardens

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This spring with the support of Alachua County CHOICES, Florida Organic Growers installed a teaching garden at the Waldo Community School. The garden, which contains 3 raised-bed vegetable gardens and a small butterfly garden, can provide organic herbs and vegetables all year long. This teaching garden is one of approximately 250 GIFT Gardens FOG has installed throughout Alachua County. Another of our GIFT garden installations can be found at the Woodland Park Boys and Girls club, where FOG installed 10 raised bed teaching gardens last year also with the help of CHOICES and in honor of Food Day.  

“We’re trying to give people an opportunity to learn to grow fruits and vegetables,” said Steven Pokorny, director of CHOICES. “Ideally to increase the servings of fruits and vegetables in their diet.”

The Waldo Community School teaching garden and the Woodland Park Boys and Girls Club teaching garden were both chosen as sites for our CHOICES-sponsored spring gardening classes.  During the 16 week course, students in both locations were able to watch crops grow from seed to harvest.  FOG collaborated with the Eat Up Program to educate students on a variety of organic gardening principles using lesson plans from the “Gardening for Grades” curricula. This curriculum was released in 2010 by Florida Agriculture in the Classroom and meets Next Generation Sunshine State Standards in a wide variety of disciplines from Language Arts to Science. Benchmarks included identifying the parts of plants, awareness of plant feeding schedules for proper growth, identification of edible plants, and awareness of food origins. All lessons included core ideas like photosynthesis, soil structure, nutrition, and biodiversity. Learning synthesis was achieved through the following hands-on activities: a leaf scavenger hunt, nature exploration, garden care, and collecting pine leaves for mulch.

For the first several classes in February at the Waldo Community School, the students focused on building the garden and planting the beds. Several rows of potted plants were also planted so students could take a vegetable plant home with them for the summer if they wished.

March was a busy month in the garden. Since everything in the two beds was planted and growing fast, we had plenty tomato pruning to do, mulch to lay, and a need to constantly water. With an eye toward expansion, the students started additional seedlings that they either took home or are saving to be added to garden. In order to learn about the vast biodiversity around us and the life cycles of plants, we read Eric Lyle’s book “The Tiny Seed”. We then went on a seed scavenger hunt. We also explored the origins of different plants that we eat. As a hands-on way to cement our new knowledge, we played a game of four corners with plants and their continent of origin.

The garden lessons in April were all science-based and focused on biodiversity. Students engaged in a leaf scavenger hunt among the vegetables and underneath the surrounding trees. They were asked to find leaves that smelled good, leaves that smelled bad, large leaves, spiny leaves, and leaves that we would eat. The scavenger hunt was paired with a worksheet where students were asked to label different parts of the plants, and then describe the biological purpose. The second half of the worksheet had the more advanced terms chlorophyll, photosynthesis, sugar, oxygen, and carbon dioxide. These terms were new to most of the students and the section acted as a pre-test. To connect the biology of plants to the vegetables we eat, the students played a game involving common vegetables and naming the part of the plant that vegetable is.

We also installed a new garden bed and planted it with radishes, which are a quick growing crop. We then held a radish race where the students measured their radishes to see which could grow the largest.

To teach photosynthesis, students were asked to complete several worksheets and coloring sheets about photosynthesis while we discussed its process and role in plant growth. This was paired with a game where students acted out photosynthesis being either water or carbon dioxide, pairing up and then becoming either oxygen or sugar.

In May we continued to focus on teaching the science behind all the growing that was happening in the garden. Students completed the same worksheet focusing on photosynthesis and the parts of the plant that they were given earlier in the spring and the results were quite striking. The first time the class completed the worksheet the average score was 3.45 correct answers out of ten, with the median and mode scores both 3. A month and half later the class averaged 8.32 correct answers out of ten, with a median score of 8 and mode score of 10. To demonstrate how plants gather resources, the students played a game where each had to stand on a paper plate and then brown, blue, and yellow cards were spread around them representing nutrients in the soil, water, and sun light. Then without moving their feet off the plates the students had to grab as many of each card as they could and those who couldn’t reach one of each had to explain what they were missing and how it would prevent plant growth.

We were also blessed with the beginnings of abundant harvests, and the students were able to harvest tomatoes, red asparagus beans, radishes and eggplant to take home. To prepare the gardens for the summer they were planted with sweet potatoes. We also added a small wildflower section to attract butterflies and other pollinators.

The spring gardening classes at the Woodland Park Boys and Girls club also covered a variety of organic gardening principles.  We began by planting most of the beds with spring crops like beans, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, and squash. With everything growing fast we had plenty of tomato pruning to do and insects to chase away. By the end of the March we were able to harvest sugar snap peas and the last of the broccoli. In April we were able to harvest some more sugar snap peas, along with strawberries and growing clusters of green tomatoes. Despite the unusually warm spring, the sugar snap peas were delicious, sweet, and crisp. We estimate that between the two patches, 15 pounds of peas were produced in March and April. In May we were also blessed with the beginnings of abundant harvests, and on the final day of classes the students were able to harvest tomatoes, green beans, strawberries, green peppers and eggplant to take home. We estimate the between $200 and $300 worth of produce was harvested from the garden during our spring gardening classes. More will available to harvest by the students at the Boys and Girls club and the surrounding community throughout the summer.

For more information about GIFT Gardens or our gardening classes for youth, please contact Travis Mitchell.

GIFT Gardens

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The Gainesville Initiative for Tasty Gardens or GIFT Gardens builds raised bed vegetable gardens and edible landscaping for low-income families and institutions that support them. By providing physical and education resources GIFT Gardens aims to increase food production in Alachua County, to increase self-sufficiency of community residents and to beautify neighborhoods. To date there are GIFT Gardens at 257 locations across Alachua County, including 17 schools, 7 churches and 17 community centers.

Free GIFT Gardens

Residents of Alachua County with low incomes and the institutions that serve those residents are eligible to apply for a free GIFT Garden, helping them become more self-sufficient and increasing their ability to provide for some of their own food needs.

Participants receive up to 3 raised beds, fertile soil, seeds, vegetable starts, a GIFT Gardens Growing Guide and ongoing assistance free of charge. Organizations can receive up to 10 raised beds. After the installation by FOG staff and volunteers, participants plan and plant their gardens, allowing them to take ownership of the GIFT Garden and learn how to start, take care and maintain a vegetable garden plot. All GIFT Garden recipients also receive a free year long membership to Grow Gainesville.

To apply, submit an application form linked below. For more information contact Travis Mitchell at


Organization Application

For churches, schools, community gardens or other institutions and organizations.

Individual Application
If you rent, your landlord will also have to sign off on the GIFT Garden by completing the Landlord Agreement (required for renters).


GIFT Gardens Growing Guide

IFAS Vegetable Gardening Guide


Fundraising GIFT Gardens

Individuals can also purchase a GIFT Garden to grow healthy food nearly all year long if they do not meet income eligibility requirements for a free GIFT Garden. The purchase of a GIFT Garden goes helps support the gifting of free gardens for low-income Alachua County residents, so part of the cost is tax deductible. GIFT Gardens make great gifts too, or donate a GIFT Garden in your name or someone else’s name to a low-income person, and receive the reward of knowing your gift has helped someone provide food for themselves and their family. GIFT Gardens can be adapted to your physical needs as well, i.e. increasing the height to decrease need for bending down. A standard 8 x 4 x 1 ft garden will cost approximately $200 depending on your needs and location. We can also install in ground gardens and additional edible landscaping. Prior to installation you will be contacted to schedule an appointment for a site visit. This site visit will be considered a consultation and we ask for $25 donation per site visit which will be added to your total. During the site visit one of our gardening experts will help you decide what kind of organic garden best fits your needs, where it should be located and to go over any other details necessary to insure you have a successful garden. After the visit you will be notified of the price based on what you and the coordinator have agreed to. The price will include the cost of the gardens plus a minimum $100 donation to Florida Organic Growers to go toward the GIFT Garden program. Should you decide to continue, a check will be requested in full, made payable and sent to the name and address listed above. The check will be deposited only after your gardens have been installed.

For more information contact Travis Mitchell at or send in the application form below and someone will contact you promptly to arrange for a site visit.


Fundraising Garden Application
Landlord Agreement (required for renters)


GIFT Gardens Growing Guide
IFAS Vegetable Gardening Guide


Garden Consultations

Struggling with your vegetable garden? Donate to FOG and receive a free consultation!

With a minimum donation of $75 receive a vegetable garden consultation from our Community Food Project Coordinator and resident gardener Travis Mitchell. Travis has worked for with the Gainesville Initiative for Tasty Gardens for the past three years and has built over 90 gardens across Alachua County. Each consultation will be roughly one hour in length, an cover a variety of organic gardening techniques including best watering and fertilizing practices, how to compost, weed prevention techniques and pest management. Upon request seasonal plants and seeds can also be included with consultation along with minor soil amendment and assistance with planting. Contact Travis Mitchell at or call 352-377-6345 for more information.


Villages at Forest Green
Turkey Creek Forest
Twinlakes Fishing and Camping
ARC of Alachua County
Coworkers, Inc.
Comprehensive Community Services, Inc.
Boys & Girls Club of Alachua County, Woodland Park
Service Options Unltd Inc.
Shands at Vista Child and Adolescent Unit
Interface Youth Program – CDS
YMCA Camp McConnell
Greens Group Home
Sisters Helping Sisters in Need
MISA @ Veterans Hospital
North FL/South GA Veterens Health System (VA Domicilliary)
Gainesville Harvest
Gainesville Job Corps
Rose Garden
S.E.T. on Success, LLC
Parklands Rehabilitation and Nursing Center
A Future and a Hope
Acorn Clinic
Peacock Houses
Parkview Baptist Church
Oak Ridge Appartment Complex
Vocational Industries
Addison’s Daycare
Krishna House
Palm Garden
Citizens Co-op Community Garden
Arbor House, Inc.
City of Gainesville Thelma Boltin Center
Alachua County Downtown Farmers Garden at Alachua County Administration Building
Reichert House Youth Academy
Lake Forest Elementary
Eastside High School
Bell Nursery School
Einstein Montessori School
Expressions Learning Academy
Horizons Center Alternative School
Idylwild Elementary
Littlewood Elementary
Metcalfe Elementary
Morning Meadow Preschool
Sidney Lanier
Baby Gator Child Development and Research Center at UF
Lincoln Middle School
Howard Bishop Middle School
One Room School House
Hoggetowne Middle School
Stephen Foster Elementary


The program is made possible by grants from Alachua County, City of Gainesville, Satchel’s Pizza and Yes to Carrots, Inc.


If you would like to get involved please call 352.377.6355 or email Travis Mitchell at