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Going Green: Local Non-Profit Teaches Sustainability For Backyard Gardening

Local farmers are taking the fear out of managing a year-round backyard garden with a program designed to educate people on the logistics of growing fresh produce.

Based at the Jacksonville Farmer's Market, The Green Spot takes an Earth-friendly approach to sustainability by showing people how to care for plants and introducing them to new and emerging gardening technologies.

"I show alternative methods of growing," said Carmel Mayo, owner of the Green Spot. "I teach folks what not to do; how to conserve water and the environment."

Mayo opened up a 2,800-square-foot area in the Jacksonville Farmers Market focused on food plants. The venue has two live garden beds where visitors can learn how to grow produce all year long, even during the winter months.

"A lot of people want to know how to grow their own food, but don't realize we can grow all year," Mayo said, adding that a lot of potential growers are unfamiliar with Jacksonville's weather and its notoriously sandy soil.

Mayo said one of the big issues with gardening is the use of peat moss for fluff, which allows roots to grow easier through the soil.

"It's not a sustainable product," Mayo said. "It takes 230 years to replace one cubic yard of peat moss."

Instead, Mayo uses Coco Coir, a product common in Israel. Coco Coir is ground, compressed coconut which expands when watered. An 11 pound brick will yield more than 25 gallons of fluff when watered.

Coco Coir, which lasts up to six years, is common among citrus growers, which Mayo described as a a "no-joke business" in Florida.

"When I utilize this, my food production goes up tremendously," Mayo said.

You can follow WJCT on Twitter @WJCTJax.

Melissa Ross joined WJCT in 2009 with 20 years of experience in broadcasting, including stints in Cincinnati, Chicago, Orlando and Jacksonville. During her career as a television and radio news anchor and reporter, Melissa has won four regional Emmys for news and feature reporting.