The North Shoal Creek Community Garden is the culmination of efforts that began in the spring of 2016 by members of the North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Association. In June, the association approached Principal Brian Hill of Pillow Elementary with the idea of putting in a community garden at the school. Always one to see the value in connecting the school with the community, he was immediately on board.
Over the summer and early fall, a dedicated group formed to work on the initial planning stages of the garden, obtain approval from various entities with an interest in the school’s land, and secure funding. That group bundled the garden, along with various other beautification projects, into one application to the City of Austin’s Neighborhood Partnering Program, which allows the city to pair up with neighborhoods to accomplish medium-sized projects. To ensure specific funding for the garden, the group applied for a grant from Austin Parks Foundation.
In November 2016, Austin Parks Foundation approved a grant of up to $10,000 for construction of the garden, and in February 2017 the North Shoal Creek Community Garden Committee was formed to carry out the logistics and construction involved with building the garden. Shortly thereafter, the Neighborhood Partnering Program called to inform us that they have approved our application in its entirety. This will allow the City to assist in the more challenging components of building a garden, such as ensuring water tap access and proper installation of a fence to border the garden.
Our community garden at the northwest corner of the Pillow Elementary grounds is slated to have 22 plots, 19 of them available for rent to anyone who resides in North Shoal Creek. The other three will be maintained by the community garden committee with the intent of donating the harvest to Pillow Elementary students. The community garden’s bylaws and gardener’s agreements can be found on our website, as well as a schedule of events and upcoming workdays and committee meetings.
For more details about our community garden and our neighborhood partnering program application, visit: Sep 6 NPP Presentation.
Why Have a Community Garden?
Community gardens foster a neighborhood’s identity, encourage neighbors to come together, and provide educational opportunities on the benefits of healthy eating and having access to fresh vegetables. Investing in and beautifying open space makes neighborhoods safer in general, and community gardens have been shown to increase property values of homes in their vicinity. Though the majority of the plots are for our neighbors, there will be plenty of hands-on education opportunities for the students of Pillow, and part of the harvest will go back to the school for farm-to-table tastings.
Can You Dig It?
This garden won’t build itself! One of our promises to Austin Parks Foundation and the Neighborhood Partnering Program was that we would put as much sweat equity into the creation of the garden as possible. The sweat equity we put into building the garden is part of our cost-match contribution to the City and will help realize the garden itself. This means we need as much help as possible digging trenches for irrigation, building the garden beds, and landscaping an area for native plants, among many other projects.
Contributing to your neighborhood is easy and enriching. You won’t have to worry about driving across town or driving in circles looking for parking. Pillow Elementary is already the heart of North Shoal Creek, the place we take our children to play, walk our dogs, and exercise around the track. It is our park space, and we should make the most of it. So spend a few of your open weekends turning neighbors into friends by coming together to build our garden. If you can dig it, then dig in by joining us on one of our upcoming workdays!
You may have noticed construction of the garden is well underway. Every third Saturday and fourth Sunday of each month, our neighbors have been out at the site clearing existing vegetation and removing rocks and debris. We now have two mesh wire compost bins and three altogether to start a small compost operation.
There are countless ways to contribute – come to one of our meetings held on the second Tuesday of each month in the conference room at First Texas Honda to help make decisions involved in planning a project of this size. We could always use an extra hand to call around for quotes and ask for donations.
There will be plenty of ways kids can participate, so this can be a family project. Being a part of transforming the open space at the northwest corner of Pillow Elementary into a beautiful and thriving garden is guaranteed to be a fulfilling experience. Every time you walk or drive by the garden, or harvest fresh vegetables for dinner from your very own plot, you’ll know that you were a part of something great in North Shoal Creek. We plan to undertake a lot this summer, including building all of the garden beds, so it is more important than ever that we all pitch in!