05 January 2012

More community gardens - want to play?

Neighborhood gardens pull people together who want to grow their own produce and take it home to enjoy with family and friends.
With the success of the neighborhood garden at Muskogee’s Spaulding Park, Muskogee Parks and Recreation would like to expand community gardening opportunities and have identified some additional park locations as possible sites. 

Doug Walton, Martha Alford, Mark Wilkerson
Wilkerson said, “We are looking for neighborhood partners who are willing to help by being a Garden Sponsor.   Garden sponsors can help with the organization, promotion and care of a new community garden.”
The garden in Spaulding Park was built after meetings with interested gardeners, gardening workshops, the development of guidelines and rules for gardeners, site selection, construction and plot assignments. The three years of experience gained at Spaulding Park will help new gardeners with their efforts.

Sharing a garden with other gardeners and their families has many benefits, including community development, outreach to the neighborhood, exercise and eating your own homegrown food.
One of the highlights for the Spaulding Park gardeners is the social aspect. Meeting new people, sharing starter plants and discussing ideas about what to put in and when to harvest, keep the growers coming back.
Renee Russell said she brought 20-clients from Blue Sky Behavioral Health to work in their two garden plots.
“We loved working with other people and growing things together,” said Russell.
A 2-year veteran of Spaulding Park garden,  Jo Jackson, said, “I really enjoyed it all and will do it again. In fact, I’m still doing it since my onions are still growing. Some days the gardeners would just stand there and talk until the sun went down.”
Producing nutritious food is a big part of the reason people come out and do the work. Gardeners at Spaulding planted herbs, vegetables and fruit, including: Parsley, basil, corn, zucchini, tomatoes, cabbage, mustard, kale, chard, eggplant, peppers, melons, onions and garlic.
Parks and Recreation Department filled the raised planting beds with soil, and water is provided, so the gardeners’ expense is limited to seeds, plants, fertilizer and sweat equity. Nutritious, organic, food is available to anyone willing to do the work.
The City of Muskogee Foundation is providing funds for the additional gardens.
Chris James brought his girlfriend and her children to work their two garden plots together.
“It was a great experience with the kids,” James said. “They could learn about plants and gardening in a fun family activity. What we plant and take home to eat is secondary to me; it’s neat to do.”
Russell said that her group harvested the food they grew, took it to the kitchen, and learned what to make and how to prepare it.
“We grew and cooked with things you can’t always get in the stores,” said Russell.
Gardeners in a shared space get to know each other and look forward to seeing each other.
For the past 2-years, Mary and Rudy Juarez grew Swiss chard, tomatoes, basil and onions in their Spaulding Park planting bed.
Mary said, “Some people watered for others. One time when we could not come for a week, our bed had been watered for us. It helped a lot. We met new people that we looked forward to seeing when we went back.”
There are four parks that are large enough, have accessible water and other amenities that make them ideal to have a garden. They include Robison Park at Gulick and Augusta, Civitan Park on Gibson St., Turner Hill Park at 11th and Terrace (one block north of Martin Luther King) and Delaware Park on Chandler RD and T ST.
The primary reasons to participate in community gardens were summarized by Jo Jackson when she said, “You need to be active and you need to eat your vegetables.”

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