Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, Tampa, FL

The Florida Learning Garden, a project of Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful (KTBB) in partnership with the Florida State Fairgrounds, is a permanent one-acre interactive educational experience. From ‘right-plant, right-place’ to best practices for water conservation, the Florida Learning Garden educates residents on multiple growing techniques and sustainable practices to utilize in their own homes and gardens.

Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful was proud to partner with Lowe’s for a grant assisting with completion of several Phase II projects at the Florida Learning Garden. The garden is unique in that it reaches a wide scope of people through its accessible location and multiple community partnerships. By housing donated plants and starter seedlings in our greenhouse and storing extra tools and supplies at the garden, KTBB will continue to support the efforts of community gardens throughout the area.

So much growth has happened in the garden during the past few months, thanks to the Keep America Beautiful/Lowe’s Community Improvement Grant! The soil on the site lacked nutrients, so funding for mulch, garden soil, and fertilizer has been vital in creating the overall success of edible crops at the garden.

In April 2013, KTBB held a KAB National Day of Action on the site, during which 44 trees were planted. Teams of volunteers from the surrounding community and universities picked up their shovels and set to work digging, planting, mulching and watering the beautiful fruit trees to line the garden. KTBB also partnered with the Home Builder’s Institute (HBI), an organization that teaches construction skills to at-risk or previously incarcerated individuals. Part of the grant funding enabled us to purchase building supplies so that HBI volunteers could build four workbenches for the greenhouse to provide a workspace for educational programs for youth visiting the site. Kids are now able to line the tables in the greenhouse and see, touch and smell the plants, as well as plant their own seedlings to take home.

On Oct. 19, local Lowe’s Heroes volunteers came to the Florida Learning Garden to construct a gazebo and install a butterfly garden on the property. The implementation of this beautiful structure was by far one of the most creative and greatest successes at the garden so far! The addition of a second butterfly garden by another volunteer group has created a new home for a host of butterfly species, and the rainbow of native flower species has created a flourishing, inviting space for both kids and adults.

Finally, Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful is thrilled that our 20 grow beds are now filled to the brim with winter crop vegetables! After re-planting in October, the first batch of produce has been successfully harvested and donated to a local charity to provide nutrition for homeless teens. We are so pleased to be giving back to our community in meaningful ways, and believe this site will help create new individuals stewards for the environment in our community.

Keep Charleston Beautiful, Charleston, South Carolina

The Green Heart Project is a community-based volunteer organization that integrates school farms as outdoor classrooms in an effort to teach students the virtues of hard work, respect and success and reiterate classroom curriculum while connecting students and volunteers to fresh, healthy, locally-grown produce. The City of Charleston’s Keep Charleston Beautiful is dedicated to promoting a cleaner more beautiful Charleston through education, awareness, and community involvement. In 2013, these two groups came together through a Lowe’s grant to improve a school based garden in the heart of Downtown Charleston.
The Green Heart Project was founded in 2009 with its pilot garden built with students and volunteers at Mitchell Elementary School in downtown Charleston. Over the past 5 years, the garden has grown from 5 small raised beds in the schoolyard to encompass over 12,000 ft of garden space, including a 5,500 ft vegetable garden, a native species and herb garden, and a 35 tree fruit orchard including citrus, papaya, figs, pomegranate and blueberries. The garden is utilized by the entire school as outdoor learning laboratory where students, alongside volunteer mentors, partake in every part of the growing cycle, from seed, to harvest, to tasting!
Although the entire garden functions as a an outdoor learning space, one component has been on the wish list for many years, an outdoor classroom – a covered place for our students, teachers and volunteers to gather to discuss the concepts taught between the vegetable rows. Working in conjunction with the Keep Charleston Beautiful, an affiliate of KAB, the Green Heart Project was able to secure funding and volunteers through a Lowe’s Charitable & Education Foundation grant to build and install not only a beautiful outdoor classroom complete with benches and tables, but also a 1500 gallon cistern to harvest all of the rain captured on the roof. The rain-water harvesting system will not only function to help irrigate the surrounding garden beds, but will be a lesson in and of itself teaching sustainable gardening practices and touch on the importance of sustainability in the times of today. Even though the community volunteer day landed on one of the coldest and windiest days this year, a small group of dedicated, hard working volunteers came out to help. Though they could not feel their fingers or faces, a lot of progress was made and the outdoor garden classroom began to take shape.
Our Farm-to-School program at Mitchell, students are ecstatic to begin using the outdoor classroom in the spring season of 2014 and are grateful for the partnership and volunteers at KAB and Lowe’s for their support and help in making our outdoor classroom a reality! Volunteers from Keep Charleston Beautiful and local Lowe’s stores are invited to continue working with the Green Heart team and the school garden throughout the year. This is an ongoing, ever growing, project that brings the students and community together.

Keep Virginia Beautiful, Glen Allen, VA

Keep Virginia Beautiful’s “30 Grants in 30 Days” was a great success in 2013! Our nearly 3,000 volunteers worked tirelessly to make the 30 projects a great success, cleaning up 14,057 pounds of debris; planting 705 plants and 109 trees; and installing 25 gardens. Keep Virginia Beautiful would like to thank Lowe’s and Keep America Beautiful for their sponsorship of our “30 in 30″ program in 2013!