Reporting: Monessa Guilfoil
Begun in 2009 by The Gathering Church on Hixson Pike, the Gathering Garden provides sustainably grown fruits and vegetables for Chattanoogans who need them. Once a softball field, the land beside Gathering Church had been mowed for several years before a church member with a green thumb had the idea to plow the field up and plant a garden.
Fran Quarles, Director of the Gathering Garden grew up on a farm and understands what it is to grow, cook and eat food produced by one’s own hand but to grow a garden without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides is new to her. She admits that it is laborious but says she has enjoyed the time that she and her three children have invested to maintain the Gathering Garden along with help from church members and people from the community and says they have learned a great deal about the process of gardening using sustainable, organic methods.
Gathering Garden Consultant, Jamie Brown has implemented the practice of vermiculture to help fertilize the soil at the Gathering Garden. The Worm Ladies of Charleston have a website touting the use of worms to turn left-over food into compost for gardens. It says:
How can we, both as individuals and as the world, better manage our garbage, save space in landfills, and lessen the agricultural and fertilizer runoff into our streams? One solution is to use red wiggler worms (Eisenia fetida) to eat that garbage, turning it into worm castings (worm poop) that is the “perfect” food for our gardens, lawns, and houseplants.
Next year the Gathering Church plans to expand the garden and to incorporate a fish pond to provide fish emultion for fertilizing plants. They also plan to implement an irrigation system using rain barrels to collect water from the roof to provide for the garden and fruit trees that they plan to grow.
Listen to the Story with Fran Quarles from The Gathering Garden: