Educational garden and orchard project offers a hands-on outdoor classroom.
A quarter-acre spot on the grounds of Cherokee Veterans Park, a county park at 7345 Cumming Highway in north Cherokee, will be developed into an educational garden and orchard.
When finished, the space will welcome residents who want to learn about home vegetable and fruit gardening through formal and informal educational programs led by UGA Extension staff and Master Gardener Extension volunteers.
The project is a partnership of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension-Cherokee County and the Cherokee County Recreation & Parks Agency (CRPA). Planning began in 2019, with multiple county departments and UGA Master Gardener Extension volunteers contributing ideas for the project goals, activities and concept design of the space. The proposal was approved unanimously by the CRPA advisory board in February.
Construction will begin in late fall or winter on the garden, located between the tennis courts and maintenance building. The project will give volunteers space to offer the type of impactful, hands-on training that gardeners of all experience levels can benefit from. This all comes at a fortuitous time, with more individuals gardening for the first time due to COVID-19. There is increasing evidence and scientific studies indicating the substantial health and wellness benefits of gardening.
The development will come in two phases, as funding support is secured. The first phase will include fencing the area, constructing raised beds and an irrigation system, establishing perennial berries and dwarf fruit trees, and planting a native wildflower buffer on the side nearest the tennis courts.
Phase 2 includes construction of a greenhouse and covered patio. The county’s UGA Extension will hold a pre-order fruit plant sale, September through October, to continue progress made on the fundraising goal for this project. Information on that sale can be found on the UGA Extension-Cherokee County Facebook page or at: https://t.uga.edu/67d.
“After discussing the options, Cherokee Veterans Park was selected as the site for this project. Space available and the agrarian appeal of that portion of the county are two of the primary reasons for selecting this location,” CRPA Director Jordan Wood said.
The ultimate goal for this partnership between the Cherokee County branch of the UGA Extension service and Cherokee Recreation & Parks will be able to offer a unique facility in our county that will encourage citizens to get outside, get dirty, and get educated on the substantial human health benefits of gardening.
By Joshua Fuder, the agriculture and natural resources agent with UGA Extension-Cherokee County.