Community Gardens – Are You Interested?

Mary Ann Ryan
Adams County Master Gardener

Community Gardens are popping up all over the country. Why? As people become more concerned about what they eat and what has happened to their food prior buying it, the desire to grow food that they handle and grow themselves is evident. By participating in a community garden, the gardener not only grows their own food, but also has an opportunity to meet new people, learn more about gardening, and have an opportunity for exercise, fresh air, and relieve stress from their daily lives. In urban settings, it becomes community beautification, an increase in property value, reduced crime, and community cooperation.

By definition, according to Webster, "a garden is Land for the cultivation of flowers, vegetables or fruit." A community is "A group having the same common interest; fellowship." This is exactly what our community garden is: a group of people wanting to cultivate the land to grow crops of their interest, while learning more about gardening and each other.

Not only does this garden provide food for the gardeners’ families, but it provides knowledge of food production that can be passed from generation to generation. It provides leadership among the members as help and advice is shared among them. Stress is relieved from the sheer joy of the gardening experience. Peace has been found in the garden, and friendships have been developed.

A special group of gardeners will be in their third year of gardening. This group is from the LIU Autistic program at the Gettysburg High School. The garden has provided the students an opportunity to work together to make decisions about what to grow, how to grow it, as well as when to harvest and what to do with the harvest. It has given the students an opportunity to taste foods they never have tasted before as well as an opportunity to learn first-hand where vegetables come from and what it takes to grow them.

Not only is this garden a place to grow food and flowers and meet new people. It has become an ever-changing educational tool for the community. In our first year, we struggled with drought, in a big way. This allowed us, however, the opportunity to learn about ways to provide water to our gardens. With the support of the Adams County Conservation District, rain barrels were procured for use in the gardens. These rain barrels are attached to the downspouts of a nearby storage building, and when full, are moved throughout the garden for the gardeners to use.

As a gardener, we know that proper tools become very important in our daily chores of planting, weeding and irrigating. Now under construction is a garden shed for our garden members to utilize, so tools will not have to be carried to and from the garden. This shed is a two-fold opportunity, as it not only will be providing storage, but it will have a green roof – a roof planted with plants – for water conservation education. Information concerning green roofs will be available at the garden shed, and educational workshops will be available for the public after the project is complete.

The shed is being built by the Gettysburg School District’s Career and Technology Department. These students have been working on the shed from estimating to construction during the school year. They have been working in the mornings on site to complete the construction of the building. Seeing the students interact, make decisions, and work together is something that cannot be learned in a classroom. Their participation in this ever-changing garden has been another learning opportunity for the students and will continue to be an opportunity for the community to learn more about green roofs and its effect on water infiltration.

Adams Eden Community Garden, located at the Agricultural and Natural Resource Center in Gettysburg, has been providing many of these opportunities for the residents of Adams County. The garden will be starting its fourth season this March with 22 garden plots, 20’ x 20’ in size. Many gardeners will be returning, although some garden plots will be open for new gardeners.

If you are interested in a garden plot and participating in the Adams Eden Community Garden, contact Penn State Extension at 334-6271, 670 Old Harrisburg Road, Suite 204, Gettysburg for an application or more information. Visit the gardens. Although this winter we have experienced much snow cover, the garden is still beautiful while it rests. Visit the green roof structure, as it progresses in its construction. With the support and cooperation of the Adams County Commissioners, the Adams County Conservation District and Penn State Extension, this community garden is possible.

Join us in gardening.

Read other articles by Mary Ann Ryan