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Community Spirit: Neighborhood gardens allow growers to share the love

POSTED: June 24, 2010 11:30 p.m.
KRISTEN MORALES/The Times

A few bare patches have been tilled and now contain beds of tomatoes, cucumbers and melons.

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Gardeners are pretty good at sharing.

We offer up advice, trade seeds and even give away plants and cuttings. Which is why the concept of a community garden works perfectly.

Imagine taking your love of plants and sharing that with fellow gardeners, and doing it in a venue that allows non-gardeners to take advantage of it, too. Heck, a community garden is like an outdoor classroom, introducing your neighbors to something that is usually behind your house or tucked away behind a fence.

In my neighborhood, I’ve joined forces with a couple friends to till up grass — actually, you could define it as an overgrown patch of hay — to create some community garden beds.

We’ve been blessed with a neighbor who owns the vacant land and is OK with us growing stuff on it. And in the process, I’ve been blessed with meeting more of my neighbors.

That’s what’s happened at Louell Roper’s garden, too.

A resident of Friendship Corners, an apartment community in South Hall, Roper and a few others tilled up some grass last year and planted some vegetables.

This year there are six residents gardening in a proper bed constructed with help from the building’s management, and in the process, Roper and her friends have helped others explore the world of vegetable gardening, too.

"One of our members has not had any garden experience before; some others are not from the South and (haven’t) gardened a lot," said Roper. These days they have tomatoes, squash, peppers, cucumbers and corn "taller than your head."

Their agreement, she said, is that they share what they produce. If they grow more than they can use, they are quick to share it with anyone who happens to walk by — and there are lots who do, if only to see what the commotion is all about.

At this point, I’ve expanded my home garden about as far as I can go — my backyard only gets so much sun, and that’s pretty much where the vegetables are growing. Which is why I jumped at the chance to help with the community garden. It’s a another project, I figured — I love my projects — and something to work on over the summer.

What I didn’t plan on was the sheer work involved in creating a garden from nothing. I can’t count the number of blisters I’ve gotten from pushing my poor little lawn mower through 3-foot grass (yes, I need a bush hog. If you have one, I’ll borrow it!), and tilling hardened clay soil riddled with stones and old pieces of concrete is no picnic, either.

Especially in the weather we’ve had lately.

That’s why, at this point, my community garden cohorts and I are taking a break from the groundbreaking and watching the fruits of our labors get bigger. We’ve managed to turn this once deserted lot into a home for dozens of tomato plants, plus rambling cucumber vines, patty-pan squash and, hopefully, some peppers (although they looked a little parched the last time I checked).

But there’s still room for expansion, and based on the number of people who drop by on any given Saturday and ask, "What’s going on over here?," I hope next summer those flat, grassy areas can be claimed by some more neighbors aiming for their own vine-ripened tomato.

It’s like we’re creating a neighborhood within a neighborhood.



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