The Good Gardens

The Good Gardens is an organic teaching garden that on average provides nearly 2,000 pounds of produce, cut flowers, and culinary herbs to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center Food Pantry in Newport, RI each year. Launched in 2011 and redesigned in 2017 through a partnership with the University of Rhode Island’s Master Gardener Program, the Good Gardens is an award-winning site for hands-on learning, community engagement, responsible land stewardship, and organic food production.

Within the Gardens’ half-acre of land, visitors can find native pollinator plants, a colonial-inspired herb garden, a vegetable garden, two beehives, a pumpkin patch, and a seasonal hoop house.

Mabel’s Garden

The historic Mabel’s Garden was a significant feature of Paradise Farm before Mabel Norman Cerio established her family’s land as Norman Bird Sanctuary in 1949.

The garden’s elegant design style and purposes evolved greatly throughout the centuries, eventually settling on it’s design today as a native planting habitat demonstration garden, woodland path, and decorative centerpiece, featuring blue and purple flowers inspired by Mabel’s favorite plants.

Volunteers have maintained and developed beautiful native plantings that line the outer stone wall of the garden, creating crucial habitat for beneficial pollinators such as birds, bees, butterflies, and more.

Food Forest

In 2023, Norman Bird Sanctuary staff and volunteers removed more than 200 square feet of dense invasive plants to make space for native food-producing plant species. An extension of the Good Gardens, the “Food Forest” serves as a multistoried garden that integrates an overstory of large fruit and nut trees such as American Persimmon (Dispyros virginiana), Elderberry (sambucus nigra), and Black Walnut (juglans nigra).

An understory of food-producing species below the canopy include high and low bush blueberry plants and mushrooms. The Food Forest has expanded the variety of food donations that are provided to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center Food Pantry.


In 2023, two Norman Bird Sanctuary staff members became certified beekeepers through the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association (RIBA) to support an expansion of the Herb and Pollinator section of the Good Gardens. Under staff care, two Italian honeybee hives (Apis mellifera) now call the Sanctuary home. 

Explore directly behind the Good Gardens–at the confluence of the Universal and Woodcock Trails–to view our hives and maybe even catch a glimpse of our certified beekeepers in action and learn more! 


Volunteer in Our Gardens

Volunteers help keep our gardens healthy year-round. Join the team and volunteer to weed, water, plant, and more!

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