Friendship Garden Project

Monthly meeting at the Friendship GardenIt's 6 pm. The gate opens and in rushes the neighborhood kids, with broad smiles on their little faces. Some running to get the water hose, others to the storeroom for watering cans, or to look at their vegetables. Then, a few minutes later, I'm bombarded with questions. "What's the name of this insect?" "Why do I see flowers on my cucumbers but no fruit?" Then I would have to stop and look in all those eager eyes to explain what insects are destructive or beneficial and that the cucurbits (cucumber, squash, pumpkin and melon) send out a batch of male flowers first then both male and female flowers. Both types need to be on the plant at the same time for pollination to take place before you can get fruits. This is a typical afternoon at The Friendship Garden, a community garden that started in Sumter in April. (left image: Monthly meeting at the Friendship Garden.)

Master Gardeners Tumpy (left) and Michelle (right) with produce harvested from their "Plant A Row for the Hungry" Plots.(right image: Master Gardeners Tumpy (left) and Michelle (right) with produce harvested from their "Plant A Row for the Hungry" Plots.)The garden is located at the corner of Dingle and Wright Streets and serve mainly residents of South Sumter and the immediate vicinity. The Friendship Garden serves five main goals: (1) Provide after-school activity for kids, (2) Build strong relationships between adults and youth and foster good community spirit, (3) Educate participants on the value of incorporating vegetables into their diets through cooking and nutrition lessons, (4) Beautify the neighborhood, and (5) Provide skills and experiences that are necessary for the job market. We started the garden with 30 plots. A total of 70 persons are participating with ages ranging from 3 years old to senior citizens. The plots are raised beds made from railroad ties that are 4 feet wide by 16 feet long. Plots are assigned to individuals, families and in some cases groups, such as Birnie Center, AME Church, Boy Scouts, 4-H and Master Gardeners.

During the first growing season, the Master Gardeners planted two plots for the "Plant A Row for the Hungry" Program. They donated 210 pounds of produce--eggplants, tomatoes, bell peppers, butternut squash, cucumber, zucchinis, sweet potatoes, and string beans--to the Emmanuel Soup Kitchen on Manning Avenue. They have already planted a third plot with fall crops, the produce from this plot will be donated to a children's home in Sumter.

Participants in one of the many cooking workshops(Left image: Participants in one of the many cooking workshops.) To date, we have conducted workshops at the garden on Composting, Mulching, Agronomic Practices and Record Keeping. All of the garden participants chose to plant vegetables. About 45 days after planting we started to harvest zucchini. We had so many zucchinis and questions about how to cook it that we had a Cooking with Zucchini class at the Clemson Extension Office. We made zucchini bread, cookies, patties, vegetable lasagna, and skillet vegetable medley. The 10 persons participating in the workshop have indicated how much they enjoyed the recipes and are making good use of their zucchini. We also had a Cooking with Eggplants and Butternut Squash Workshop. Five gardeners participated in this workshop. They were amazed to see that you could do a lot more with eggplants than frying it. We made Eggplant Parmesan, Meatless Eggplant Casserole, Moussaka, and Butternut Squash Crisp, a desert that tastes similar to pumpkin pie, but has a crunchy topping. We also conducted an I Love Bugs Workshop. The participants collected, pinned and identified the various insects found in the garden. See some of the recipes.

Monday, July 15, 2002, we had an Open Day at the garden where the general public, city and county officials were invited to visit. The participants provided guided tours through the garden. We had displays on The Cooking With Zucchini Class, Insect Collection, Stages of Development of the Friendship Garden and Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. Several businesses provided donations, so we were able to serve drinks and hotdogs.

Mr. Dudly and Mrs. Smith proudly display the first harvest from the garden(Right image: Mr. Dudley and Mrs. Smith proudly display the first harvest from the garden.)
Collaborating agencies are very excited about this project and hope to make it a permanent fixture in Sumter, providing a positive impact to the overall development of our community. We have already started to plant fall crops and have a few spaces available. Each garden participant is asked to sign an agreement to obey certain rules in order to participate in the project. If you are interested in obtaining a plot in The Friendship Garden, contact the Clemson Extension Office at 803-773-5561, or e-mail

Friendship Garden Has Successful First Season
by Norma Samuel, County Extension Agent (Ornamental Horticulture)
Sumter County Extension Service
Sumter, SC