The Community Garden program enhances community by providing garden plots for community members to grow their own clean and nutritious food. In addition, the program provides support to both new and experienced gardeners alike through informal opportunities to share knowledge and more structured talks and classes. The garden program also provides numerous opportunities to volunteer. Through these different opportunities the community garden program promotes resilient, restorative, ecological agriculture in a place based setting.
We partner with Virginia Tech (particularly the Civic Agriculture and Food Systems minor and the Center for Food and Community Transformation), the Blacksburg Parks and Recreation Department, the Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Master Gardener and Master Naturalists program, and the Native Plant Society of Virginia. Through these partnerships a number of the demonstration projects described below can be found at the gardens. The projects are meant to help impart knowledge, encourage sustainability principles, and inspire both our gardeners and our visitors.
After spending five years as a volunteer building efficient wood-burning stoves in Guatemala, Laina Schneider, brought her skills to Blacksburg. Schneider developed and implemented an outdoor stove for the Hale Community Gardens. The stove is available to gardeners and community members for use in preparing and sharing community meals.
Community Food Forest
Food forests support interactive learning while growing nutritious food and promoting environmental sustainability where we live. A food forest is a carefully designed edible perennial garden that mimics the forest ecosystem. Around the Hale garden property are a few gardens planted in a wonderful mix of taller fruit trees, underplanted with edible fruit shrubs with a sea of ground cover berries and herbs. Community food forests are planted, tended, and harvested by the community. Ours was started through the collaboration of garden staff and volunteers coordinated by Catherine Bukowski who co-authored a book on the subject. Purchase the book here.
A pollinator garden is a garden that is planted predominately with flowers that provide nectar or pollen for a wide range of pollinating insects. Effective pollinator gardens include a range of flower types, shapes and sizes. They are planted in sunny sites grouped in large drifts. Gardeners often plan for a succession of flowers throughout the whole growing season and avoid the use of pesticides. The New River Valley Master Gardening Association volunteers manage the pollinator garden at the Hale property and are typically looking for new volunteers.
Hear the buzz in the two bee yards, also known as apiaries. Richard Reid is our resident beekeeper. His business Happy Hollow Honey is a beekeeping operation producing raw, unheated, and unfiltered honey, as well as nucs and a few queens. The apiary at the Hale garden is often used as part of informal beekeeping field days, for community members interested in learning more. Read more about Richard’s philosophy and check out the great photos here.
Fresh Food Donations
Each garden site has opportunities to share extra produce with others during the growing season. The garden has worked with The Glean Team, The Giles County Food Bank, and other organizations to share fresh food produced at the garden with those most in need.
Roper Solar Greenhouse
The Roper Solar Greenhouse is an 18’x32′ solar greenhouse utilizing a subterranean heating and cooling system. Community members and students from the Blacksburg New School grow kale, turnips, spinach and other crops during the winter months when outdoor food production is limited by the climate. The greenhouse was designed by Virginia Tech Professor Emeritus Dr. L. David Roper. Many community members and businesses contributed to the design and construction that was completed in 2009.