Small urban garden is growing near the heart of Lakeway

Within half a mile of the intersection of RR 620 and General Williamson Drive, Karla Garcia runs a farm that carries more than 80 kinds of vegetables, fruits and herbs throughout the year.

Natural Springs Garden is, by more than one customer's account, the best-kept secret in Lakeway. The small urban farm, established in 2009, sells produce that is picked daily in its on-site store.

"It's just a hidden little gem," frequent customer and country musician Cord Carpenter said.

Garcia said the farm is able to grow both popular and more unique produce because it is usually picked and sold that day. From eggplant to purple hull peas, Garcia said customers often say the produce is the best they have tasted.

Natural Springs Garden is also a growing Community Supported Agriculture, a partnership that connects a local farm and people who want locally grown produce.

A growing purpose

Garcia and her husband have lived on the property that is now Natural Springs Garden since 2000. Garcia said she and her husband were drawn to the land, which is bordered by a natural spring and creek, because it felt like a rural farm while being close to a city.

Garcia said she decided to start the farm after their children graduated from high school.

"I was ready to do something different," she said.

Garcia grew up on a farm and her husband grew up on a vegetable farm. Garcia, who worked most of her life as an accountant, always kept a garden and would revolve her day around taking care of it, she said.

Natural Springs Garden has grown since it opened with the addition of several neighboring lots. The farm now has two greenhouses and is implementing a fish-based fertilization system to provide nutrients to the plants.

In October, Natural Springs Garden started keeping chickens to sell the eggs. The Garcias feed the chickens leftover vegetables from the garden, which Garcia said she thinks make the eggs taste better.

"We're told we have the most amazing eggs," she said.

In addition to selling produce and eggs, the Natural Springs Garden store carries products from 17 local vendors. The products range from Orange Pepper from the Texas Spice Company to purses from Tipsy Bee.

Using the land for a purpose

The Garcias have been approached by developers interested in turning the land into a resort, retirement home, or subdividing it into 22 garden homes, Garcia said. However, Garcia said she wanted the land to benefit the greater public.

"We want people to come and enjoy it," she said. "We wanted to use [the land] for a purpose."

Natural Springs Garden has done little advertising and just recently bought a sign to put up on the corner, Garcia said.

Garcia said the farm has benefited from strong word of mouth among customers.

"People have responded strongly to what we're doing," she said. "Those who know about us, at least."

Unique fertilization system

Natural Springs Garden is in the process of implementing a self-sustained fertilization system for its two greenhouses. The system has fish fertilize water that is then filtered through worms and gravel and into the produce. After fertilizing the produce, the water floats back to the fish. Natural Springs Garden founder Karla Garcia said the fertilization system greatly reduces the garden's water usage.

Natural Springs Garden, 15202 Kinsey Court, Austin, 619-5203,