TMC’s Community Garden Bears Veggies and Fellowship

The golden rule of gardening is to cultivate what you want to grow.

If you want to inspire good nutrition and foster fellowship, then there’s nothing better than getting a group of folks together to turn the earth and revel in its bounty.

Bearing the gamut from Jerusalem artichokes to jicama and native sugar cane, the plots in Tucson Medical Center’s community garden are thriving,

The seed of the idea was planted in 2009, when TMC leadership wanted to find more ways to continue promoting healthy lifestyle choices and embracing community. The garden was constructed using old playground equipment railing and ashtrays no longer in use since the campus went tobacco-free.

 In the past, harvests from the garden were distributed to departments throughout the hospital.

This year, the volunteers are trying something different: Letting employees sign up for individual plots.

About 20 plots have been adopted by individual employees or by groups of employees and the garden is flush with summer crops.

Eileen Schwab, a desktop computing analyst who has been gardening for 25 years, said there are a number of reasons she signed up.

She likes the fact she’s taking active steps to improve her nutrition. The food she’s eaten from the garden, such as beets, tends to be more delicious than store-bought produce, she said. She also likes the social aspect of it.

“But the bottom line is, if you want to grow a garden in Tucson, and someone else is offering the space and the water, why wouldn’t you do it? It’s fun and I’ve always been into plants and gardening, so it was an easy choice for me,” she said.

Grounds supervisor Brad Wedding agreed that it’s been nice to watch the crops develop – and even nicer to sample them.

“Store-bought tomatoes in most cases are picked green and then shipped, since if they were ripe, they’d be a mushy mess when they get to the store,” he said. “If you pick one that ripens naturally, you’ll see it has way more flavor than what you’d find on the grocery shelves.”

 Wedding noted the gardeners make their own compost, largely from campus landscaping clippings, assisted by donations from employees. Some have been known to bring coffee grounds, although goat manure and leftover sweet grain mash from micro-brewed beer have been known to be added to the mix.

The garden is also organic, he noted. And since the gardeners aren’t using pesticides, the group meets on a weekly basis to share management tips.

Sometimes, it appears, fellowship has its roots in how to pollinate squash or how to keep an eye out for tomato hornworms.


  1. Patricia Tanrioger says:

    I was employed at TMC when the garden was first planted. After watching it grow for two years, I was inspired to build raised beds at home and try my hand at gardening. I now live in Northern California and have an even more extensive home garden this year. Thank you, TMC, for showing me the benefits of growing my own food!

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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