This afternoon I’m visiting the community garden at beautiful One Water Place in Kelly Plantation.  The entire community that sits atop the ridge of a hill is sprinkled with an elegant glow. Just to the west of Building Three is where the dirt digging begins in the garden.



Ron Porter and Sharyn Owen meet me at the gate of the garden and welcome me in for a look-see. It’s very interesting how this works. The caring and sharing of this area has been worked out over several years. 



The entire garden plot is divided into 15 individual sections and at the beginning of each year residents may apply to receive one of the plots for planting. For the good of all, the gardeners must follow certain rules and regulations. One, the entire garden plot and produce will be organic; weeds must be pulled and not sprayed. Second, no exuberant vining plants like watermelon. Third, no planting of large fruit trees because of the shade that might cover someone’s garden plot. Last, but not least, if you do not take care of your assigned plot, you lose it to someone more willing to keep it weeded, lovely and productive.



The garden was started six years ago and I am delighted to hear the joy and enthusiasm that hovers around Ron and Sharyn when they talk about the garden. 



I can tell there is good garden karma here. Sharyn’s eyes twinkle as she says with a grin, “Ron is the ‘idea’ man and the owner of the ‘community’ tiller that makes getting started pretty easy.  Ron says, “Back when we first started, a lot of people thought this was going to be a lot of fun.” 



Soon they discover that the sun here is blazing hot and weeds are always thriving.  The faint of heart soon fall by the wayside. 



“However, those that are really into this have taken over for those that find this not as much fun as they thought.”



I ask Ron what his formula for good garden ground preparation is: “I would recommend Organic Miracle Grow, Organic Vegetable Soil, Black Kow and one bag of Mushroom Compost.  Mix these all together and till deeply until you have 12 inches of good soil.”



Sharyn says she is fairly new to gardening but is enjoying the experience. I ask her what went into her garden this year and how things developed. This brave lady jumped right in and planted red, green and yellow bell peppers, garlic, strawberries, basil, Burpless cucumbers and of course, what we all want and try for… tomatoes. 



“Strawberries didn’t do so well and I gave up on the tomatoes,” she said. Giving up on tomatoes is normal around here, but I don’t hear a single mention of giving up on gardening — not from this lady!



Ron gardens on three sections and is not faint of heart. This year he planted crooked-neck and straight-neck summer squash, black beauty eggplant, beets early in the spring and tons of radishes.



“I enjoy using herbs so I planted spearmint, thyme, rosemary, tarragon and orange mint. I have so many head high okra plants that I pick 30-50 pieces every two days. We have pickled them, fried them and my wife, Maryann, made a fantastic Creole using tomatoes and okra.”



But there were some unique challenges this year.



“The rains were tough on the garden…” Ron said. “ The squash was killed off early as were the cucumbers and then mildew set in.” 



I’m invited back to see the fall garden that will be going in soon. The gardeners have already begun putting in vegetables like broccoli, collard greens, mustard greens, flat leaf parsley, cilantro and any kind of lettuce you can think of. 



Before I go I have to tell this delightful story which probably took place under the cover of a full moon. These two were so determined to have a fabulous garden, they ordered 1,000 red worm eggs at a cost of $25. These matured into red night crawlers which are composting fools that never quit. I think Sharyn was a bit miffed that her share of night crawlers seemed to have crawled into Ron’s garden plot and set up their corporate headquarters in the wrong section. As far as I know though everybody is still good friends.



Laura Hall is a longtime Destin resident.  She tours area gardens with her dog Annie and explores other topics of interest.  Contact her at hall-destin@cox.net.