What Does Your Garden Grow? Community.
July 23rd, 2018
This summer has been unkind to grass. The usually lush grass in Marquette Park in Wyoming, MI, is brown and yellow. The greenest spot in the park is UCOM/Metro Health/Wyoming Parks and Recreation’s community garden. Eleven 16-square foot garden plots are brimming with greenery. Tomatoes, peppers, squash, cabbages, herbs and other healthful food plants are watched over by a few towering sunflowers.
More than a place of beauty and tranquility in the neighborhood, the garden is a building-block for camaraderie in the city.
Sylvia has been participating for several years in Growing Green Neighbors, a group of about forty urban gardeners that meet monthly at UCOM to network with their neighbors, share gardening tips, and hear a presentation by a local farmer or master gardener. Most of them in their yards have 4’x4’ raised garden beds provided by UCOM. They come together over a pot-luck meal, sharing recipes for good food, as well as offering moral support to each other.
This year is the first season that Sylvia has really had time to practice active gardening. You can see her out in the Marquette Park garden watering and tending her own plot, and helping out some of her neighbors whose plots are getting dry from all the bright sunshine and high temperatures. Trisha, our Growing Green Neighbors Coordinator, had been used to Sylvia’s busy schedule, so she transplanted some things into Sylvia’s garden. Fortunately she left a little space, and into that area Sylvia planted seeds this spring. Through Sylvia’s hard work and some of the tips she has picked up through the years, her garden plot is flourishing, and she will harvest enough fresh vegetables to supply her little family for several weeks during the season.
Maybe there will be enough produce that some needs to be preserved for the coming year. If there is, Sylvia is prepared, having attended with many of her neighbors at UCOM, a “steam canning” class with Jane Hart of MSU Extension. Jane demonstrated the process at one of those Growing Green Neighbors gatherings. The result: seven quarts of canned, freshly picked tomatoes from UCOM’s gardens at Marquette Park and in our parking lot hoop house. Another result is forty urban farmers, who know this popular canning technique that they can use on their own extra produce.
Kyle is one of the people that tends our parking lot hoop house garden plots. Having a disability often hinders his getting out of the house. Knowing that the gardens need him gives him an impetus to get out into the fresh air and sunshine several times a week. Most of the produce from the hoop house gardens wind up in our Healthy Food Pantry or on UCOM’s Farm Stand. Kyle says of his times of service, “I work a while, eat a while, and day-dream a while.” That sounds like just the ticket for enjoying gardening. On Kyle’s “days off”, he nearly always calls with a reminder for us to water the plants.
The mission of our Gardens is to make fresh, organic produce available to low and middle income families and individuals by providing the space, education and resources necessary to create plentiful garden spaces. The Garden also enhances the park and UCOM’s Resource Center where residents and gardeners may gather and create a community around gardening and food.