Community garden signup kicks off March 4

February 22, 2010 by

Right now, it’s just a big rectangle of tilled earth at the northeast corner of the Nazareth Motherhouse property. But come this spring, organizers hope the 100-by-200-foot plot will be bustling with activity as Concordia’s first-ever community garden.

The Sisters of St. Joseph have donated the space, as well as the expertise of their organic gardener, Steve Mitchell, for the project. And several sisters and other staff members have been active in the planning.

Talk of creating an organic community garden actually began about two years ago, with a number of sisters and staff members interested in growing food without chemicals. But it took the hiring of Mitchell — now at the start of his third growing season for the sisters at the Motherhouse — to give the project the push it needed.

Mitchell has proven successful at using organic practices in the large Motherhouse garden, which lies just to the south of the historic brick building on 13th Street. Produce from that space and the nearby greenhouse feeds the sisters who live at the Motherhouse from very early spring well into the fall.

Interest for the garden project grew in the community forums that began in 2009. About mid year, a small group of sisters and community volunteers came together to combine that expertise with enthusiasm and ideas.

The result is the Concordia Community Garden of Hope.

One hurdle was getting water to the large area well away from the Motherhouse’s other gardens. That was resolved in January when the sisters dug a new well to supply water for the half-acre garden space. Work on pumps and piping will be completed before the community garden opens.

Half the cost of the well was underwritten by Change for Global Change, a funding organization managed by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia. Other funds are being sought and those interested in donating to the community garden are invited to call Martha Bryant, Development Office, 243-2113, ext. 1225.

The next steps are to get the word out to Concordians interested in gardening, and then sign up the folks who will green up the brown rectangle as soon as spring arrives.

Both may be accomplished during a special workshop set for Thursday, March 4. The first half of the 7 p.m. session is titled “The Benefits of Organic Gardening” and will provide information for anyone who wants to eliminate the use of chemicals in their gardens.

The second half will focus on answering questions about the new Concordia Community Garden of Hope and signing up those interested in renting a plot. Payment of the $13 seasonal fee will be required at the time of signup.

The session is in the Nazareth Motherhouse Auditorium, and everyone interested in organic gardening or signing up for a garden plot is encouraged to attend.

If there are plots still available after that evening, they will be available by calling Sister Betty Suther or Cecelia Thrash at Manna House of Prayer, 243-4428.

Later in March, the Sisters of St. Joseph annual Spaghetti Dinner and Silent Auction will benefit the Concordia Community Garden of Hope. All proceeds from the March 21 event will go to support the garden project. Dinner will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and tickets are available now at the Motherhouse and at Manna House of Prayer, 323 E. Fifth St. The price is $8 for adults and $4 for children. A limited number of tickets will also be available at the door, at $10 for adults and $5 for children.

WHAT GARDENERS NEED TO KNOW

If you’re interested in becoming a community gardener:

  • There will be a total of 26 plots, available beginning March 4.
  • Each plot is roughly 12-by-46 feet, for about 550 square feet of garden space.
  • The fee for a plot will be $13 for the season, and the fee must be paid when you sign up.
  • Individuals may share a plot, but one person must be the contact representing everyone who shares that plot.
  • The garden is expected to be ready for planting around the end of April, depending on the weather.
  • Only organic-certified pesticides and fertilizers are allowed. No pre-treated seeds may be used.
  • There will be a 6-foot center aisle and 3-foot side aisles separating the plots, and all the aisles will be mulched with wood chips.
  • Gardeners must agree to maintain the plot throughout the growing season, and harvest crops once they are mature.
  • The garden is expected to close around Nov. 15, and gardeners must have vegetation cleared from their plot by the closing date.
  • Gardeners will provide their own tools and soaker hoses or sprinklers within the plot.
  • The Sisters of St. Joseph will provide water, hoses to reach each plot and stakes to mark the individual plots.
  • For more information, attend “The Benefits of Organic Gardening” session at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 4, at the Nazareth Motherhouse Auditorium, or call Sister Betty Suther or Cecelia Thrash at 243-4428.

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