Homeowner Charolette with Master Gardener, Birdie DeVila and volunteers.

Have you ever wondered about the beautiful garden that is planted on the east side of Highway 21 as you head into Bryan? It’s the Demonstration Idea Garden cultivated by the Brazos County Master Gardeners. BCMG is one of several volunteer programs offered by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

Bryan/College Station Habitat for Humanity’s partnership with BCMG began more than 11 years ago when Master Gardeners Charla Anthony and Vicki Gergeni began teaching Earth-Kind® landscape practices to Habitat homebuyers. In 2016, Dr. Sara Gatson, Professor of Sociology at Texas A&M University, received a grant to build keyhole gardens in the community. She reached out to the Master Gardeners, who recommended building the gardens with interested Habitat families. Three Habitat families, selected at random, had gardens installed in spring 2017. Master Gardener, Birdie Davila, who currently leads the gardening workshops for Habitat homebuyers, spearheaded the project.

This spring, more than 50 Habitat families attended a garden workshop at the Demonstration Idea Garden off of Highway 21. The university had received a second grant, so any Habitat homeowners interested in having a keyhole garden put their names in a hat. Two families were randomly selected, and their gardens were installed on March 24, 2018. Ms. Davila once again spearheaded the project.

Most, if not all of our Habitat families move out of cramped, substandard housing with no yards. When they are accepted into our homebuyer program, many express a desire to have a garden. As Susie Alvarado, a new homebuyer, puts it, she is looking forward to being “able to plant a garden like the one my grandfather had. We are truly grateful to the Brazos County Master Gardeners for enriching the lives of Habitat families and making a difference in our community. Ms. Davila has played the biggest part, recruiting other community partners and volunteers in the process. McCoy’s Building Supply, The Farm Patch, Producers Cooperative Association, The Eagle and Brazos Valley Recycling contributed seedlings, concrete blocks, cardboard, newspaper and compost. Members of the Boy Scouts and student volunteers for the Big Event helped build the keyhole gardens.

Ms. Davila and other Master Gardeners visit with all five families regularly, making adjustments to the gardens, answering questions and celebrating the fruits of their labor.

One of the missions of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is to take knowledge and apply it beyond the classroom. The Master Gardeners do exactly that. They have brought together community partners and volunteers together to promote healthy eating, just as we bring people together to build homes, communities and hope.

To learn more about keyhole gardens, visit https://www.texascooppower.com/texas-stories/nature-outdoors/keyhole-gardening.