Sprawled across seven acres in southwest Houston, the Westbury Community Garden—one of the city’s largest community gardens— continues to offer new programming and features to help cultivate a love of nature and gardening in Houstonians.

Most recently, the garden received a grant to plant a Magical Sunflower Maze on site. Children and adults wove their way through the meandering maze and engaged in a map-reading game this summer. 

Now, with sunflower season nearly over, the garden is selling pre-cut sunflowers Saturday mornings in September from 9 a.m. to noon. Sunflowers cost $2 each, with proceeds going to the garden.

The Westbury Community Garden, at Dunlap and Fonmeadow, is a joint project of the Westbury SuperNeighborhood, the Westbury Civic Club and the Westbury Area Improvement Corporation. Its slogan is “Growing Community through Gardening” and it’s fueled by volunteers with a passion for gardening. 

The first garden beds were built in the spring of 2010. Today the garden includes around 62 raised beds leased to 75 community members—individuals and groups. Members plant and care for vegetables in their plots, share the work to maintain the property’s common areas, and each garden member agrees to provide 12 hours of community service. An annual fee per bed of $72 helps pay for gardening expenses, including water. New gardeners who want to join are paired with an experienced garden mentor.

The garden also includes an outdoor learning pavilion, orchards, compost areas, a rainwater collection system, and a certified butterfly garden with native plants. The Brays Oaks Management District helps the garden by mowing the grass along the street — a benefit to volunteers, who previously had to mow the grass on their own.

This year, the garden also installed an apiary (a bee yard) funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant. The garden’s new bee committee helped to put in pavers and rescued three bee swarms that became the apiary’s first residents. 

“The group still gets calls about bees, and our bee committee is active in various honeybee groups around the city,” said Debbie Gordon, the garden community outreach coordinator. 

The Garden ran a honey fundraiser to support the new apiary and other projects. Some honey remains and is available as a thank you gift for a $10 donation to the garden.

Already, community members have donned the garden’s protective bee gear to observe the apiary, and the garden plans to purchase additional protective gear so that more interested community members can learn about caring for bees. 

In mid-September the garden will have available its popular fall organic seed packets, a curated collection of vegetable and herb seeds that grow well in the Houston area in the fall. The garden’s spring seed packet also includes flower seeds. 

“The fall one is really diverse in the number of vegetables,” says Gordon, with 29 different seeds for $15 ($12 for garden members). 

“Our expert gardeners choose seeds that are appropriate for our climate and do well in Houston based on their experience.”

Community members can reserve a fall seed pack now.

The garden also includes farmers from the Plant It Forward Farms program, a program through which refugees learn how to garden and then sell the produce at local farmers markets and through a farm share program. In 2014, two farmers from the Congo who had completed the Plant It Forward Farms program began to develop two acres of the garden’s land. 

The Westbury garden also has a volunteer day on the fourth Saturday of each month during which all community members can help out in the garden with mulching and weeding in public areas. Interested residents can sign up through Volunteer Houston

Occasionally, garden volunteers meet with scout troops for an outdoor education session during which they talk about plants and composting and tour the garden.

— by Deborah Blumberg