Take a free garden tour, learn about sustainability

People who enjoy learning more about gardening and getting a better understanding about sustainable practices may want to check out the Rosebud Continuum open house.

The free event is set for May 12, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., at 22843 Hale Road in Land O’ Lakes.

Jerry Comelias holds two white carrots planted by Academy at the Lakes students at the Rosebud Continuum in Land O’ Lakes. (B.C. Manion)

Jerry Comelias, site and educational director for the 14-acre Rosebud Continuum, said the open house is the first full-fledged attempt to let the public know about the project. There was a smaller open house last year, but that was a soft launch, he said.

The upcoming tour features a sustainability farm, a wildflower meadow, friendly goats, aquaponics, hydroponics, Florida native plants, beekeeping and biodigesters.

Tours through the Florida Native Plant Trail feature a Florida Native Wildflower Meadow, with the tours being led by Dr. Craig N. Huegel and Lisa Boing. Tours will be offered at 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 11 a.m., noon and 12:30 p.m.

Visitors also will be able to learn about biodigesters from Dr. Thomas Culhane, a National Geographic Explorer professor at the Patel College of Global Sustainability and a world traveler. Culhane will explain how biodigesters can take waste and turn it into energy.

Visitors can also check out the hydroponics and aquaponics area, where they can learn how to grow plants without soil. And, they check out the apiary at 10 a.m., to learn how to be a beekeeper.

They also can see a small chicken coop, called a chicken tractor, that is moved around the property, Comelias said.

“We put chickens in it, and they will prepare the ground for growing food. They pull the roots and eat the bugs. It’s really great,” he said.

And, there’s also a petting zoo where children can pet goats.

Jerry Comelias shows off a water heater made from copper pipes that have been painted black, enclosed in plastic wrap.

Comelias, a graduate of the Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida, said the project grew out of a partnership between the Patel College, and Sonny and Maryann Bishop family that owns the 14-acre site.

Sonny Bishop, a former National Football League player, also is Lakota Sioux.

The project expresses the Bishop family’s desire to kind of recover some of the indigenous practices previously used in Florida, Comelias said.

A trail leads through a wildflower meadow, which is near the property’s lake.

“We want it to be a place where people can come and reflect, think or pray, or just enjoy being out in nature,” Comelias said.

The open house includes the chance to learn more about biodigesters, which convert food waste into fuel and fertilizer.

The gas that’s produced can be used to fuel a grill, and the liquid fertilizer it yields can be used in gardens and in hydroponic systems, he said. The fertilizer is so highly concentrated, “you can take beach sand, and put that in it, and grow food,” he said.

Beyond the wildflowers, the site features all sorts of ways to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs.

There are hydroponics, aquaponics and traditional garden beds.

Students from Academy at the Lakes and Blake High School are involved with the project.

Lettuce thrives in the greenhouse at the Rosebud Continuum.

Fruits and vegetables being grown at the site include white carrots, strawberries, okra, cabbage, onions, celery, pineapple, tomatoes, Seminole pumpkins, collards, kale, beans, radishes and lettuce. There are all sorts of herbs, as well. And, there’s a variety of trees.

The project aims to look at using natural approaches and keeping the big picture in mind.

The idea is to use systems-thinking when approaching problems, Comelias said.

That means being mindful of potential consequences. For instance, “If we come up with a solution for fuel, is it going to create a problem for food? Is it going to create a problem for water?” he said.

The project aims to help others to learn about sustainable practices.

“We kind of try to do everything in a natural way and help people learn how to do that,” Comelias said. For example, “we hope to do sustainability summer camp for kids and teach them how to turn 2-liter bottles into hydroponic systems.”

There are also some visitors there this week, who traveled from Haiti, to learn about practices they can use at home, Comelias said.

Published May 9, 2018

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