After spending months talking and dreaming of putting together an edible garden at Healthways Headquarters we finally pulled the trigger. In February we gathered landscapers and gardeners together with colleagues from our facilities department, our property management company, and the onsite café to talk about what we wanted out of the garden. (I am Wendi Micheletto, Healthways colleague and Davidson County Master Gardener.)
Once the landscaper came up with a design for the garden, we took it to the property owner for her sign off. Once we got her approval it didn’t take us very long to get excited about the garden! In early May, the landscape team cut out the garden and created a border out of heavy pavers. Knowing that everyone doesn’t have the space to create his or her own in ground garden at home, we wanted to provide another option. To show colleagues what they can grow in a container, we added a large pot to our courtyard for vegetables. In Mid-May I went with our Chef and another colleague to area stores and nursery’s to pick out plants. We choose a wide variety of herbs and a few summer vegetables. Shortly after purchasing the plants, we announced to the building we were planting and invited colleagues to come out and help. We had a few colleagues come and help us get everything in the ground. Though to be honest, with the hot summer sun and steamy Tennessee weather it has been a bit of a challenge to get help, though I expect this will change for our fall season. Once the plants were in the ground we mulched in an effort to avoid the weeds and keep in the moisture. (As an aside, it took us a few weeks to get the mulch in the garden, and during that time it got very weedy).
Then came the maintenance. Since colleagues are encouraged to wear workout attire and do something active on Wednesdays (dubbed "Workout Wednesdays"), we scheduled time in the garden every Wednesday morning. It’s nice to begin the day with fresh air and good company and seeing what has happened throughout the week with both our plant and people friends. While we work, it gives us a chance to chat about what’s going both personally and professionally, providing ample opportunities to build community and increase collaboration.
It has been a very good season for our inaugural garden. Though we grew mostly herbs along side just a few vegetable, we have harvested and delivered more than 210lbs of produce that our chef has been able to use daily in meals prepared in the café. While there are only a couple ‘regulars’ at the weekly weeding and harvesting, there are others that drop in when they have time. Even some of our remote colleagues from out of town have dropped in to help while in town.
Since we’re based in the south, we are able to have three full garden seasons. We’re beginning to plan for the fall season, some greens, beets and turnips perhaps. We also plan on doing some additional outreach to colleagues and offering some of those brown thumbed folks some classes so they can begin to reap the benefits gardening has to offer. In months to come, we hope to get a commitment from each department to adopt and care for the garden for a month. It’s a great way to plant the seeds of teamwork, see the rewards, be active, and build a tighter sense of community between colleagues.