The next time you are driving down 17-92 and you are approaching Sanford Middle School be sure to keep your eyes wide open and peek across the street, you’ll notice tucked away in its own little sanctuary is The Sanford Community Garden. If you didn’t know about this little gem you are now in the loop and will be looking for it every time you pass by, I know I do. I was invited out to the lovely garden by Sheila DiPace, the current President of the garden, she has BIG dreams for the space. Since the garden is faced with a forthcoming lease from the city, it will be expanding but also fundraising. To help get ready for the insurance and water bills, the garden is in the final stretch of a big fundraiser raffle, with over $2,000 worth of gift cards from local merchants to be raffled off at Alive After Five on January 14th at 8pm. If this garden peaks your interest as much as it does for me then keep reading to find out more about the garden that’s bringing people together and how you can help support the upcoming garden expansion and win lots of prizes!

Click here to check out an awesome video of the garden by Reg Garner.

What is the Sanford Garden?

It’s where you can learn to grow your own organic produce for a year at a very reasonable price.  It’s where you can meet your neighbors and reconnect with old friends in a very unique and naturally fun way. For many of us, it’s a wonderful place to stop on the way home after a very long day at work.

The garden is tucked behind Checkers on 1792, and faces the large beautiful green space that extends between 15th and 18th street. Sometimes we go pull some weeds and then throw down a blanket in the grass for a nice picnic during the sunset. The space is great for watching the sky. I have visions of turning that green space into a lovely park, with just a simple soft perimeter trail and landscaping on Elm Ave that will resolve the flooding problems we get there, and then the trail would feed into an educational eco-trail for children through the thicket of trees on the north end, adjacent to the garden. It has enormous potential to serve the community and get us out and walking and really use the space.

What inspired you to start a community garden?

The garden was conceived in 2000, as a collaborative effort between the city and the residents of Sanford. The city assisted in gathering the help and resources necessary to construct it, residents joined in and helped build it, and gardeners have been enjoying it ever since. It is tucked behind Checkers, across from Sanford Middle School on 1792, so for years, I didn’t even know it was here. I raise butterflies and love my own personal garden and never dreamed I would have the time to run a community garden, but here I am. Denny Gibbs and Susan Owens, two of our previous presidents, did an amazing job keeping it going and I am forever grateful to them.

What is your favorite fruit, veggie, herb, etc. to grow?

I actually am not great at growing edibles. Yet. I garden a bit like a squirrel and ususally have no idea what I have planted or where. I hope for the best and love the pleasant surprises when something edible pops up and survives. I raise butterflies and focus more on natives and nectar sources for our hard working pollinators. Many of my monarchs from home make their way down the street and settle into the community garden, where I have three plots overflowing with host and nectar plants. Every third bite of food we take is due to the work of a pollinator, so they are essential for our survival, and greatly assist our crops, but are also very welcoming to find while you are toiling under the hot summer sun pulling weeds.

What are some daily difficulties you face with running your own garden?

Getting folks to pull weeds in the summer is a challenge, but thanks to Donuts to Go and cool Saturday mornings, we manage to get a LOT done on our summer work days in the garden. (I think they are magical, those donuts with the bacon and maple!) Squirrels are a problem which we hope to resolve with our new fence and maybe a water station for them in the thicket. I would love to draw in more large birds to that space, as they will assist with that problem naturally. Funding will be an issue in a few months when we are facing a lease situation with the city which gives us more creative freedom and a bit more land, but water bills and insurance will force us into  fundraising mode from here forward.

Do you have any advice for those of us that would like to start our own garden or be a part of yours?

There are wonderful resources on line on how to start a community garden. We have a huge lack of them here in Central Florida, and large areas where folks literally have no access to fresh fruits and vegetables. We also have a generation of kids who are completely disconnected with nature or the reality of what they are putting into their mouths. We see lots of grandmas and grandkids at the garden and it gives me such joy to see how it can bring people of all ages together and inspire young children. I hope to see a lot more of that in the future. A great online source for starting your own Community Garden is

Do you plan on “growing” bigger in the future?

Yes! The lease will allow us more space. Most of the garden beds need to be rebuilt so we will more than likely do a complete rebuild of the garden in the next few months. Brand new beautiful beds, longer and more narrow so easier to work, with their own spout from which they can create drip systems (each plot will have its own water spout from which they can attach drip systems or a hose, currently they have a spout every four or five beds), and plump with organic soil would be greatly appreciated by gardeners. We would add more beds (current plots are 4×8 and new plots will be 4×16) as well and a taller fence with much better fencing to deter the squirrels.

I also want to create an outdoor educational area for children and adults alike where we can hold our workshops and meetings. Right now we just have one picnic table for 41 gardeners. I would love to create a magical space where children can be inspired to learn how to grow their own food and reconnect with nature. We are talking with Lowes and Horstmeyers and Ace Hardware, all who which assisted us in the original building of the garden, to see if they can help us with the rebuilding of the garden this coming year. Village2100 has also expressed interest in collaborating with us in the children’s garden. And Ixora is interested in working with us as well.

Tell us about this awesome raffle that you have going on right now.


Our first ever garden raffle fundraiser is in full swing and over $2,000 worth of goods and services from local merchants will be raffled off on Jan 14th at Alive After Five, in the form of ten baskets, each valued at approximately $200. You can view a list of our amazing prize baskets below as well as by checking out our Facebook page!



BASKET NUMBER ONE: One spring or summer night on the Floating Bungalow, The Willow Tree Café $30.00

BASKET NUMBER TWO: One hour photo session on location (within ten miles of Sanford) with professional photographer Reg Garner plus one 8×10 print

BASKET NUMBER THREE: One hour consultation with Nate the Garden Guru, State of Harmony Farms gift basket, Basket of gardening books, Horstmeyers Farm and Garden $10

BASKET NUMBER FOUR: Smiling Bison $20, Longwood Gardens $35, Horstmeyers Farm and Garden $20, Wops Hops Brewing Co. $20, Deeringer Honey basket, Boxelder dozen of organic seeds, Wondermade Marshmello $25, one Yoga Club of Sanford class.

BASKET NUMBER FIVE: St Johns Rivership Company 3 hour lunch cruise for two, Sanford Flower Shop $20, Winter Springs Beauty facial, The Smiling Bison $20, Mayas Books and Music $15, Horstmeyers Farm and Garden $10

BASKET NUMBER SIX: U-Sail of Central Florida Sailing Class Certificate for Two includes instruction and two hours on the water

BASKET NUMBER SEVEN: Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens four tickets, Zoom Air passes for two, String Theory Creations gift, Cheddars $20, Donuts to Go one dozen, Horstmeyers Farm and Garden $10

BASKET NUMBER EIGHT: Wayne Densch Theatre two tickets, Ace Hardware $50, The Imperial $30, Cubans on the Run $20, Wops Hops $20, Wine basket, Horstmeyers Farm and Garden $10

BASKET NUMBER NINE: The Corner Café $50, Café Di Riverwalk $20, Carrabas $20, Park Ave Popcorn Shoppe $20, Taste of Thyme $15, Horstmeyers Farm and Garden $10, Wops Hops $10, Wine basket, Roots Raw Juice Bar coupon for two smoothies

BASKET NUMBER TEN: Celery City $50, Starbucks Lake Mary Gift basket, Christophers Italian Restaurant $20, Earth Origins case of coconut water, Wine basket, basket of essential oil sprays, Yoga Club of Sanford class, Horstmeyers Farm and Garden $10


You can purchase tickets at:


The Corner Cafe

String Theory

The Sanford Flower Shop

One ticket for $5.00 or three for $10.00. All proceeds go directly to the garden. We are overwhelmed by the support of the local merchants in their generosity and look forward to creating a garden that Sanford and it’s residents will be very proud of.

As the Garden continues to grow so will the love for it, there is already an amazing group of gardeners that grow some pretty delicious fresh fruits and veggies, but if you are interested in being a part of this spectacular group please know that there is an active wait list for when the garden reopens in the spring. Costs for the new garden are still in discussion.  The membership allows gardeners access to our guest speakers and meetings and workshops as well as use of the shed and the soil piles.

For questions or to be added to the waiting list please email:

(All pictures are from the lovely Sanford Community Garden, The raised Garden bed is the only Handicap bed in all of Seminole County and the Cute little Healing Herbal Garden Painting was done by Mary Shaw, who can be found at the Jeanine Taylor Folk Art Gallery.)