Community garden thrives in Cleveland, Tenn.

Friday, January 1, 1904

photo Betty Payne shows tomatoes she picked Monday from the community garden behind her public housing apartment on Sixth St. in Cleveland.
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CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Betty Payne was determined the community garden in her public housing neighborhood would thrive this summer.

"In the back are watermelons and pumpkins. Green beans are on the other side of the okra. Right here we have sweet potatoes and some gourds," Payne said during a garden tour.

It's the third growing season for a community garden begun by volunteers from the Caring Place, the Greenway Table and a UT Extension Service Master Gardener class. The garden is in the center of backyards shared by the apartments on Sixth Street SE.

The garden is having its best year yet thanks to Payne, Caring Place Director Reba Terry said.

"I was raised on a farm," said Payne, who moved into the neighborhood about a year ago. "I have gardened most of my life."

In the center of the garden is a structure to collect rainwater, but there hasn't been any lately. So Payne uses a garden hose to keep the plants going.

For her, gardening has paid off with more than vegetables. She's 41 pounds lighter now, she said.

The Cleveland Housing Authority has approved gardens in other neighborhoods, too, Terry said, but it would take more volunteers to build and manage them. So far, there have been no further requests.

"This was our pilot project," Terry said. "We wanted the neighborhood to take ownership. Of course, we would like to have additional gardens."

The Cleveland Housing Authority also has plans to build a public information shed with a bulletin board, similar to those in national parks and forests, Terry said. The board will include volunteer work days and other garden information.

Contact Randall Higgins at or 423-314-1029.