The start of growing season is always an exciting time. Neighbors look forward to seeing bright colors pop up from what’s planted, and gardeners get to rekindle their relationship with the soil and other gardeners. The new season at Pulaski Zeralda Garden came with new leadership. Tracey Savage took on the role of Garden Coordinator and recently showed us around the garden and shared her vision for the future. 

Founded in 1987 by Ms. Cook, the Germantown garden was then an empty lot but the community saw its potential to be more. The beauty of the garden is what drew in Tracey’s mom, Ms. Glenda. She would pass the garden on her way to work and eventually connected with Ms. Cook to get a plot. For over 30 years she’s been growing fresh food to feed her family, connect with other gardeners, and enjoy a quiet place to relax. 

When Tracey was younger, she didn’t want to invest her time in the garden and couldn’t relate to it, but as an adult that changed. Tracey found herself going through a rough time and her mother encouraged her to get a plot at the garden. Following her mother’s advice, Tracey began to feel right at home. “The earth is good for the soul,” her mother said. Once she started, Tracey craved more time at the garden. The more she put her hands in the soil, the more she was healing. Now she often comes out in the morning and sits in a shaded area with her coffee, relaxing with her feet in the dirt. This is therapy for her. 

It’s been five years since Tracey joined the garden and after a few gentle nudges from previous Garden Coordinator DeeDee Risher, she agreed to take on more of a leadership role. She’s excited about what’s ahead and dedicated to keeping the garden going strong. The current garden space was acquired by NGT from the city and preserved in 2016. Tracey would like to expand the garden onto two adjacent vacant lots. Her eyes were beaming as she shared her dream for the additional space to have a stage, more plots, and a fruit tree. 

Throwback picture of Tracey Savage’s son enjoying a strawberry in the garden.

The gardeners at Pulaski Zeralda grow a variety of fresh produce, herbs, and flowers. The extensive list includes beets, celery, radishes, squash, peppers, onions, spinach, basil, eggplant, okra, tomatoes, collard greens, strawberries, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, cabbage, beans, corn, asparagus, garlic, dill, sage, oregano, kale, broccoli, chamomile, echinacea, nasturtiums, and sunflowers. Tracey is grateful all the gardeners get along even with ages ranging from 20s to the recently retired gardener in her 90s.One of the plots is cared for by a local women’s center. Everyone knows you must maintain your plot as well as assist with the overall maintenance of the garden. They have a scheduled workday every 3rd Saturday and welcome volunteers. The garden also participates in PHS’s City Harvest program. What’s harvested from the seedlings they receive, they donate to nearby Canaan Baptist Church and community refrigerators. 

While we sat in the garden, a neighbor greeted us from her porch. Tracey smiled and talked about ideas to improve community engagement. She would like to host game nights, a wine and seed swap night, and more harvest dinner nights. These ideas are just to bring everyone closer.

As we ended our time at the garden, Tracey expressed she would like to connect with other gardeners across the city to share information because there’s always something new to learn. She told us if she doesn’t get to the garden at least twice a week she doesn’t feel right. She remembers when her mom would come home from the garden she would be smiling as she placed what she grew on the table for the family. 

Tracey left us with these thoughtful words, “The garden is good for the soul. It keeps you grounded.” Here’s to a successful growing season!