By T. Scott Boatright
Volunteers gathered Monday evening at the newly-created Grambling Community Garden, located at the corner of College and Gum streets.
The community garden is the brainchild of Grambling City Council member DeVaria Ponton, who was sworn into her first term of office on Jan. 1. Her campaign platform included an initiative to bring back the city’s community garden program
One of the volunteers helping plant on Monday was Ponton’s fellow City Council member John Williams..
Ponton, a master gardener who grows much of the produce she eats, said she developed her love of growing vegetables during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was involved with Grambling’s first community garden back in 2012 and had never forgotten it,” Ponton said. “So when the pandemic hit nobody was comfortable about getting out and going to the store unless they really had to. So it just made sense to start growing my own.
“At first it was only tomatoes and cucumbers. And they grew really well. So much so that I started growing more and more of all kinds of different vegetables that I like. And I found out that with a little work and love, anyone can grow a lot of their own food.”
“We have some cucumbers, some melons, cantaloupes, zucchini, preppers and squash,” Ponton said. “My husband and I worked on Saturday with some Lincoln Prep students where we planted some tomatoes in what we call Phase I of planting. This is Phase II.
“There’s different varieties we have, too. We have I think five different peppers, four kinds of tomatoes, two different varieties of yellow squash and then just plain old zucchini.”
The plants were placed in the garden that consists of 28 rows that are each 70-feet long.
“Mr. Samuel Spearman, a (Grambling) transplant from Mer Rouge in Morehouse and a 1976 graduate of GSU and 2018 retiree from Ardagh Group, is a local gardener that came out before we got started and used his tractor to till the dirt and make rows,” Ponton said.
Earlier this spring students from Lincoln Preparatory School gathered at Grambling City Hall to plant seeds in cardboard tubes from toilet tissue and paper towel rolls as well as biodegradable egg cartons.
Some of the plants put into the garden on Saturday were seedlings planted by Lincoln Prep students and others put in on Monday were more mature plants.
“Those first ones we planted were from the seedlings and what we’re planting today are big-box transplants,” Ponton said. “That allows us to have what’s called succession planting. The seedlings we planted are a little bit younger than the big-box transplants, so that helps extend the harvesting period.”
Ponton said that Monday’s additions brought the total number of plants in the garden to around 125.
“We put down around 50 on Saturday in Phase I and added around 70 today in Phase II,” Ponton said.
Ponton said her goal is to provide food for those in need as well as remembering the roots from which the Grambling community was built.
“Grambling was once a farming community, it was once a big part – a cornerstone – of our community,” Ponton said. “So farming and gardening is part of our history, too, just as Grambling State University is.
“And our school children need to know their history and the roots they came from. It seemed like getting them involved in the Community Garden would be a great teaching tool for them.”