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Blueberries for beautification

Several “mothers of invention” worked together Saturday to plant a blueberry hedge at the East Suffolk Recreation Center as part of the Great American Cleanup.

Shelley Barlow, Garden Coordinator for Healthy Suffolk, gave everyone the nickname after they handled some minor inconveniences in the soil that morning.

“We thought the soil was nice and tilled up, but there was actually some stumps and a lot of roots,” Barlow said. Fortunately, Hope for Suffolk Garden Manager Meredith Alphin brought her grub hoe for the job. “Not planting under ideal conditions, (but still) making the best of it.”

The ladies dug holes and planted 25 blueberry plants in the corner beside the East Suffolk Community Garden at the rec center on South Sixth Street. They mixed in peat and aluminum sulphate, covered their work in soil and added water.

They also needed plenty of water themselves in the Saturday morning heat.

“It’s unusually hot for early May, but we’ll take it,” Barlow said. “The farmer wish is an inch of rain a week all through the growing season. If we can order that up, we’d be all set.”

She said the hedge will be a pleasant replacement for the big trees and vines that were removed from fenced corner.

“It will create a nicer space out here because we’ll have this nice blueberry hedge, and it also will provide food,” she said, when the blueberries are in “full production” in a few years. “My idea is that when people are out here working…they can walk over and grab a handful of blueberries (to) have a snack while they’re working in the garden.”

The group also added two more metal beds to the community garden, for a total of 10 metal beds for Healthy Suffolk’s “Adopt-a-Bed” program. Each bed is more than 10 feet long, three-and-a-half feet wide and one-and-a-half feet high, filled with compost and soil.

All 10 beds are either planted or have people interested in planting in them, Barlow said. These include church groups, local businesses and families.

Suffolk resident Lisa White is one of the proud metal bed owners working under the Saturday morning sun, along with her daughter Lydia Moyer, 7. The White garden has lettuce, spinach and peppers that they plan to give to local senior citizens, White said.

She said that she wanted to help out because she has a vested interest in the East Suffolk Community Garden.

“Plus (it teaches) the little one responsibility and community service,” she said. “It’s always good to give back.”

They were among roughly 200 volunteers across the city that participated in the Great American Cleanup on Friday and Saturday, according to Wayne Jones of Keep Suffolk Beautiful. There were cleanups and other beautification projects throughout Hampton Roads last weekend, and Keep Suffolk Beautiful worked with other local organizations to “Team Up 2 Clean Up.”

This included about 10 King’s Fork High School students that helped clean the Nansemond River downtown, Jones said. Football coaches at North Suffolk schools also gathered more than 100 football players for cleanup efforts.

“It was a very successful two days of beautification and cleanups,” Jones said in a phone interview. “We managed to plant some blueberries at the community garden, we managed to plant trees in two parks and we had people across the city help clean up.”

Volunteers can now register through Keep Suffolk Beautiful for Clean the Bay Day June 1. Call 514-7604 for more information.