Spotlight on Myers Park Vegetable Garden
By Tara Roberts and contributor Robyn LaCour, CCMGA Master Gardeners
Myers Park and Event Center in northern McKinney is home to a variety of gardens maintained by the Collin County Master Gardeners. All of the gardens are open to the public. One of the many gardens featured at Myers Park is the vegetable garden which was started in 2014. The vegetable garden is both a demonstration and a research garden. The garden has six 48 sq. ft. research beds which are each divided into four areas (quadrants). The garden also has six demonstration beds.
Each quadrant of the research gardens is planted with the same yearly selection plant families in a different rotation for three growing seasons. The plants include peas, pole and bush beans, cabbage, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, peppers, beets, onions, garlic, leeks and squash. Most of the food grown in the garden is donated to local food banks with some of the harvest shared with the master gardener volunteers and park staff.
Soil preparation for the garden beds follows EarthKind principles originating with native soil amended with 6” of compost and topped with 3” of mulch. Compost and mulch are replenished as needed. Shredded hardwood mulch is recommended for edible beds to replenish soil needs as well as provide weed control, moisture conservation and soil temperature moderation. Beds are watered using drip irrigation and hand watering.
Garden Manager Robyn LaCour has been a master gardener for almost five years and has managed the vegetable garden for three years. “My favorite thing is to educate and provide new and experienced growers with information on how to grow the very best gardens for us as well as for their success at home,” LaCour says.
A growing team is responsible for growing all the transplants used in the vegetable garden. The plants are grown using the same method and medium. The growing team meets at the end of each year to decide which specific varieties will be grown for the gardens. For research purposes, many varieties are grown for at least two years. This research is used by Texas A&M AgriLife to determine best selections for growing in Zone 8a.
CCMGA volunteers work around 1,500 hours annually to maintain the vegetable garden, which includes following EarthKind principles for soil amendment, bed preparation, integrated pest management, and proper watering. Volunteers also maintain all the equipment used in the gardens and perform data collection for research purposes.
Extreme weather and pest management are challenges for all gardeners. Master gardeners use custom-made row covers and hoop houses for frost protection and shade to extend the growing season while also helping with insect and disease control. Fencing and traps are also used for pest control in the garden. Organic pesticides are only used in cases of extreme infestations.
LaCour’s best growing tip is to use best management practices including adequate sun, soil and water management. “Grow what does best in this zone and use good, clean gardening habits,” she says.
Educational opportunities such as how to grow your best tomatoes and how to compost at home are being developed at the gardens. The vegetable garden is open to the public during normal Myers Park hours (Monday-Friday). You will find master gardener volunteers actively working Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings for most of the year. Volunteers are always happy to talk with visitors and show off their hard work in the Myers Park vegetable garden.
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