By Norah Davis
For The Transylvania Time 

Garden Enters Fifth Year With New Irrigation System – Brevard NC


Those volunteers who'd already purchased their new T-shirts showed them off at the first garden day in June. (Courtesy photos by Norah Davis)

Some things are just meant to be. The Rice Street Community Garden, now in its fifth year, installed a drip irrigation system throughout the garden in 2016, just in time to cope with an unusual spring drought in Brevard.

Instead of watering by hand for hours, the garden's volunteers now turn on the central valve of the irrigation system and simply walk away until it's time to come back and turn it off.

Two minutes, tops.

Rice Street Community Garden, located in downtown Brevard on a quarter-acre owned by St. Philip's Episcopal Church, is staffed entirely by volunteers from throughout Brevard and Transylvania County.

The volunteers donate the garden's fresh organic produce to Bread of Life and Sharing House.

The new drip irrigation system was made possible by a grant from Lake Toxaway Charities, the third time that the philanthropic foundation has provided substantial support to the Rice Street Garden.

In addition, SiteOne Landscape Supply in Asheville offered expert advice and helped finance the system by supplying the drip hoses, PVC pipes, connectors, and other materials at a sizable discount.

Most important of all, though, were the volunteers who had the expertise to make it work. Maryann Mickewicz of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service has experience installing drip irrigation systems, so she volunteered to supervise the installation of the above-ground plastic drip hoses.

John Rinehart, one of the garden's loyal volunteers, has extensive experience with PVC pipe, so he supervised the installation of the below-ground system.

Mickewicz's husband, Rick, also knows his way around PVC, so he and Rinehart made up the PVC team, helped by Bill Chandler, a member of the garden's steering committee.

"Eleven volunteers," Chandler exclaims, speaking of the turnout on the big day. "That's why we were able to install our drip irrigation system in a little over three hours in late February. First-time volunteers and regular volunteers demonstrating new skills enabled us to complete the project without a hitch. "They are a loving, giving community working on behalf of those who are food insecure in the Brevard area."

Several days ahead of the installation, another faithful volunteer, Eric Osterc, spent hours digging 240 feet of trenches, 8 inches deep, so that everything was ready for the big day.

Then, on Feb. 27, the 11 volunteers laid out the PVC pipes and the plastic hoses.

The only glitch was trying to attach the drip hoses and the connecting pieces on a chilly day when the plastic had no give. Fortunately, the volunteers either had strong hands to push the pieces together or at least a timely sense of humor.

Roughly three hours later, Chandler turned on the water, as the others dashed around the garden looking for leaks.

There were none!

"The day was well organized, everyone was assigned a job, and it was a great day of community and a step up for the Rice Street Garden," recalled volunteer Ruth Chapman.

The following day, additional volunteers filled in all the trenches in another hour or so.

In addition to those already mentioned, the others were Alycia Andrade-Benton, Mary Horne, Anne Oliver, Ron Strilaeff, Neal Vanmarter and steering committee member Jayne Field.

"I don't know where we would be without the irrigation system this year, given how dry it has been," said Field.

According to the garden's rain gauge, the spring crops survived on only 3 inches of rain during the two months from March through April, and only 4 inches in May.

Certainly not a typical spring in Transylvania County.

Despite the drought, by June 24, the garden's volunteers had harvested and donated 226 pounds of produce.

That included 83 pounds of strawberries-that's a lot of buckets of berries-plus chives, kale, onions, peas, radishes, romaine lettuce and swiss chard.

Counting the first four years, plus the fifth year to date, the Rice Street Community Garden has donated approximately $13,500 worth of fresh organic produce to Sharing House and Bread of Life.

Other milestones have marked the garden's fifth year.

For one, members of the French Broad Garden Club visited twice and during the first visit provided a sizable donation, along with checks to other community gardens in Brevard.

The checks represented receipts from the French Broad Garden Club's annual plant sale.

Carrie Collins is painting identifying numbers on all of the garden's 22 planting boxes-another milestone in 2016.

As another milestone, the garden now has an official T-shirt with a logo designed by Chris Starwalt, a professional animator and graphics designer.

Right from the start, the T-shirts have been a best-seller, both with the garden's volunteers and also with friends near and far. The logo features a trowel blade with a carrot top for the handle.

One volunteer with social media skills, Ron Strilaeff, produced a step-by-step video of the installation of the irrigation system.

Another volunteer with social media savvy, Deborah Hart-Serafini, filmed a video of the garden's history, narrated by Chandler giving a tour to the French Broad Garden Club.

Check out the videos at http://www.facebook/ricestreet communitygarden/videos. For information on volunteer opportunities and donations, call 877-4070.


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