Welcome to GROW
GROW is a new kind of community garden; one which blends the concept of an outdoor classroom with the accessibility of a public park.
Our project site is over ten acres large, containing both open land and wooded areas. We are working towards tying all of this space together with permaculture farming methods for land management. This means that all areas of the project site will eventually become part of a larger, thriving, ecosystem where food is produced for both people and wildlife. By design, permaculture creates habitats for wildlife and seeks to create a balance between land use and land care. GROW's project site is a living laboratory where the public is invited to learn, to experiment, and to participate actively in the process.
Our Five Focus Areas
The garden is where students of all ages can experiment and learn about growing food in an environmentally conscious way. Unlike a traditional community garden, space is not available for rent by members of the community. Instead, we grow together and share in the rewards as they come. For the sake of education, we are constructing two very different styles of produce gardens. To the left of the central walkway will be 5 levels of traditional raised bed style garden space. To the right of the central walkway will be an experimental garden space using a permaculture technique called "hugelkultur." (Feel free to google that!) It will also have 5 levels. Below this garden space, between the terraced garden and the lake, we'll be installing three rows of blackberry under the raised beds and 3 rows of blueberry under the hugelkultur garden.
The Community Orchard
Donelson is a wonderful community where people see neighbors in need and rally to help them. GROW has been inspired by this spirit and wants to give back in a big way. It came to our attention that the two schools bordering our new site have more than one hundred homeless students. We've decided to designate a large portion of the site to installing a community orchard. We will plant one tree to represent each student, our way of helping passers by on the greenway realize the true scale of the issue. Once the trees mature, we look forward to inviting families who are experiencing food insecurity to come and gather fruit free of charge. Please contact us directly if you would like to be involved with this project!
At GROW we believe that a wealth of learning about the world can come from the simple act of spending time in nature. For children, learning happens through play. We have already begun developing a portion of the project site into an engaging natural playground unlike any other in the city. It includes both the area inside the loop and some space within the adjoining forest. Features on our wishlist include: a shallow frog pond, large boulders for climbing, logs for balance work, "loose parts" for creative play, a digging area, climbing ropes, and an edible landscape.
Urban Forest Conservation
Our new site contains two small urban forests. Though they are small, they are mighty in terms of the abundance of wildlife they are supporting! The lower one (pictured here) is especially valuable to the community, as it contains historical remnants of life at the Two Rivers Estate when it was home to its original occupants. Our focus for the lower forest is to feature it as an urban forest conservation initiative. We plan to improve and expand the trails, remove invasive plant species, and create greater balance between public use and wildlife protection. This year we will be hosting two large events to meet these goals. On February 24th we'll host a large tree planting event as part of the 250K Tree Day innitiative. Our goal is to plant 1,000 trees that day! Then, the very next weekend on March 3rd, we'll host our seccond anual Weed Wrangle Event! We encourage you to help us rally volunteers for both of these events!
In the upper forest our plans are to focus on safety first, by removing glass and metal debris while clearing out undergrowth to open up the sight line. Please click the link below if you are interested in joining our forest conservation team.
Bee Sanctuary and Apiary
The final component of the GROW project site is slated for construction over the winter this coming year; the Bee Sanctuary & Apiary. This project involves educating the public about native bees through interpretive signage throughout our site as well as through programming efforts. Additionally, it means the construction of a secure bee yard to house our honeybee colonies. These colonies will live at GROW solely for the purpose of public education (per our permit, their honey cannot be sold.) It is our plan to develop a bee husbandry internship program for local teens at this apiary site.
Another side of the Bee Sanctuary project is programming that GROW takes into local schools. We have two key lessons: Intro to Urban Beekeeping & Meet the Native Bees! These lessons have been developed out of the TN state standards for science in grades K-12 and are engaging way for students to expand their knowledge of bees. If you are an educator and would like to request one of these lessons for your classroom please click this link.