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Mid-Atlantic Gardening: Community Gardening Takes Hold

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Can't garden at home? Check out your local community garden. Rent a plot, plant some crops and savor sun-ripened produce.

The annual spring workday introduces the garden's new season.

A community garden makes it easy to grow your own food. Becky Berkebile, a faculty extension assistant with the University of Maryland Extension, oversees our local community garden. "Each spring the Master Gardeners host a workday (above) to prepare the garden," Becky says. "They weed, mulch paths, and mark and till the 16 plots."

What makes a community garden great?

A double-layer deer fence keeps the animals out.

Affordability
Price varies by city, but in our community garden $10 rents an 8 x 4-foot plot for the growing season. Water is provided free of charge on-site.

No deer allowed
A 5-foot-tall plastic mesh fence encircles the garden, part of a deerproof barricade.

The fence features an interior 5-foot-tall fence loop located 3 feet away from the exterior layer - just wide and tall enough to keep deer from negotiating a successful jump into the garden.

Summer squash will taste great when harvested.

Suit your own taste buds
Gardeners can grow any crop they like. The harvest includes strawberries, tomatoes, green beans, peppers, lettuce and squash.

Homegrown food saves money
Cathy Glessner and her husband, Ken, have rented three plots for several years. "Last year I grew beets in one plot and canned 23 pints from the harvest. That will feed us for three years," she says. "This year I filled one plot with green beans for canning."

The couple also raises peppers, which Cathy dices up and freezes. "I freeze enough peppers to feed us until next year's harvest," she says.

Bush beans line up for eventual canning.

Soil is healthy
The Glessners' yard is large enough for a garden, but the soil - a blend of clay and shale - isn't conducive. Amended with compost created on site, the soil at the community garden offers a fertile, well-drained footing for food crops.

Gardening is relaxing
"We love having homegrown food, like tomatoes, for fresh eating and canning," Cathy says.

"But for me gardening is also a great stress reliever. I like digging in the dirt," she says.

 

Green tomatoes ripen on the vine.

Learn how to garden
If you have never gardened, a community garden is a great place to start. Most gardens provide expert onsite help, and other gardeners also gladly share advice. To learn about community gardens where you live, contact your local extension office.

Community garden workday photo courtesy of the University of Maryland Extension. Gardeners shown are (from left) Jeff McIntyre and Cathy and Ken Glessner.