Community gardens are growing
Call them allotment gardens, victory gardens or community gardens, it’s all the same.
These forms of public gardens have been in existence since the 1700s throughout the world. The oldest community garden in the United States dates back 250 years to the Winston-Salem, N.C., area. During World War II consumers were encouraged to plant gardens to grow their own produce, so canned goods could be saved for the soldiers — 20,000 Americans answered the call to plant a garden. They were planted on empty lots, in backyards and even on rooftops. Victory Gardens grew by leaps and bounds. The amount of produce from the gardens during that period was equal to the amount of commercially grown produce for the same period. In 1943, families bought 315,000 pressure cookers as compared to 66,000 in 1942.
In the last four years with the increased awareness of local food, a similar growth has occurred in farmers’ markets and community gardens, taking its place in the history books once again.
American Community Garden Association, located at the Franklin Park Conservatory, states on their website that a community garden means many things to many people. For some, a community garden is a place to grow food, flowers and herbs in the company of friends and neighbors. For others, it’s a place to reconnect with nature or get physical exercise. Some use community gardens because they lack adequate space at their house or apartment to have a garden. Others take part in community gardening to build or revitalize a sense of community among neighbors.
The types of Community Gardens are varied. It can be as simple as a basic neighborhood garden with divided plots that are cared for by neighbors and families. Other types are:
• Youth/school gardens involve students in the garden as a learning process. Sometimes they are located on school grounds and involve hands-on training and participation.
• Food pantry gardens are often set up by non-profit organizations or volunteers to help benefit a food pantry.
• Demonstration gardens can be managed by a garden club or group such as the master gardeners to use as a teaching garden. Sometimes the gardens will feature unusual vegetables and instructional techniques for gardeners.
• Mission gardens are set up by churches to benefit a food bank or an organization. One such church in Delaware County is Liberty Presbyterian Church. Their garden was established three years ago by the church’s Mission Committee and is still going strong. For the year of 2011, they donated more than 335 pounds of produce to People in Need in Delaware. According to volunteer and master gardener Connie Zuga, they pick produce and make deliveries three times per week throughout the growing season. This year they had a bumper crop of cucumbers, donating 83 pounds to P.I.N.
Building a sense of community just follows with the building of a community garden. Proven benefits are: improved nutrition, improved neighborhood involvement, reduction in hunger, improvement in the environment and improved mental and physical health. Taking care of plants, watching the birds and butterflies, and enjoying the outdoors are some of the simple benefits of a community garden.
Delaware County has a few active community gardens with plans under way for more. Genoa Township located on Worthington Galena Road is the largest. Parks manager, Ron Keil said this year was challenging with the weather conditions, but the majority of the plots were sold. He stated the best part of community gardening is the camaraderie among the gardeners, along with sharing ideas on techniques and different varieties of vegetables. Interested parties can contact Keil directly at 614–568-2029 for more information on participating in 2012.
Blue Limestone Park had a total of nine spaces that were sold quickly. Jeni Strednak who oversaw the gardens this year said that community gardens take some effort to get up and running, and to maintain them for the season. All in all, the gardens were successful this year and she looks forward to an even more productive year in 2012.
Ashley Library community garden had three plots sold this past season, and plans are to have the garden available next year. Elizabeth Barker oversees and manages the garden in Ashley. Numerous programs have been presented by the master gardeners at the Ashley Library in 2010 and 2011 focusing on all aspects of community gardening.
The Delaware County Master Gardeners have recently established a committee whose focus is to coordinate the efforts of community gardens in Delaware County. Our goals are to be a resource center for handouts, instructions and educational programs to assist with garden set up and the gardeners involved. Next year we will be offering monthly programs with topics such as succession gardening, companion planting, insects and control, herbs, general vegetable maintenance and canning, just to name a few. If you would like to be included on our email list, please notify the Extension Office at 740–833-2030 to be added for future announcements of programs.
Starting a community garden can be a daunting project. Where will it go, who will oversee the gardens, how will it be divided, how much should be charged and on and on. This fall and winter is a perfect time to begin thinking of starting a new community garden in your area. Mark your calendars for Feb. 4, 2012 for a program on Community Gardens: how to get started and manage a garden. A panel group will be on hand to discuss new ideas and issues/concerns with current community gardens. Bill Dawson, Growing to Green Coordinator, will be the featured speaker. Watch for details coming soon.
Susan Liechty is an OSU Extension Delaware County Master Gardener.