By Pat Naughton
“We really appreciate what you are doing”, shouted the three ladies from a car in the parking lot of the Supply Senior Center. “That’s where the initiative for the six raised gardening beds came from” said Melissa Star, Director of the Supply Senior Center. The patron of the Supply Senior Center asked for a garden bed that they could work in. The community garden project is a partnership between NC Cooperative Extension and Lindsay Maher of the Brunswick Wellness Coalition and Melissa Starr of the Brunswick Senior Resources Initiative. Brunswick Senior Resources is a partner of Brunswick Wellness Coalition. A couple goals of the Coalition are to reduce diabetes and obesity in Brunswick County. One way they do this through educating the public on food, nutrition, and how to shop. Growing healthy fruits and vegetables is another source of nutritious food. Melissa Star reached out to the county extension for help with this project.
The raised beds were designed by Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Vic Stephens. Horticulture Technician Shawn Lennon assisted Vic in building and delivering the material. The raised beds are made of pressure treated 2×10 boards with 4×4 posts. The side boards are three high which brings the top of the bed to 29”, a perfect height for someone to work from a chair. To prevent water damage to boards and any chemicals in the boards from migrating to the soil, Vic lines the inside with polypropylene roof underlayment. The roof underlayment is lighter than plastic and has a 30-year life for roofs. Filling a raised bed that high can cause the sides to bow out. To counter this Vic installed an electrical conduit across the middle of the raised bed. The end of the conduit is covered by a board and is secured by a screw through the board and conduit.
The raised bed will be filled halfway with mulch then topped off with turkey compost. This compost is made from turkey manure, loam, and bark. Turkey manure is very similar to chicken manure but has a higher content of nitrogen. The high nitrogen content makes it well suited for green leafy vegetables. Turkey compost is available in bulk at several garden centers in the area. Raised bed soil mixed with chicken manure or cow manure is a good alternative and are readily available at home improvement stores.
Vic has been building and repairing raised beds in Brunswick County for several years. He is active at New Beginnings Community Church Pantry Garden and working with Shallotte Middle School greenhouse project. Next on Vic’s job list is four raised bed for the Calabash Senior Center. NC Cooperative Extension is working with the Leland site as well for raised beds. It won’t be long till many of the patrons of the county’s Senior Centers are showing up with dirt under their fingernails.