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Springfield showing benefits of raised-bed gardening

4/4/2013 - South Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

SPRINGFIELD — Springfield officials are hoping to show residents how to get the most out of a small garden using raised-bed construction and how to use rain gardens and rain barrels to conserve water and control storm water runoff.

The project is made possible through a Summit County Master Gardeners grant of $1,000 recently awarded to Springfield. Vince Matlock, of the Summit County Master Gardeners Board of Directors, presented the grant funds to Springfield Parks Chairman Jerry Salisbury at the March 28 Springfield Board of Trustees meeting.

“When I saw Jerry Salisbury’s name on the grant request, I knew it was going to be a good project,” he said. “Our purpose is education, so I am anxious to see this.”

Salisbury, who is a Master Gardener and has helped to create a gardening program for residents using township land, told trustees designer Marcia Wolff has created a design for the new demonstration garden, which will be built between the new restroom currently under construction next to the Springfield Community and Senior Center and the Vincent J. Mealy Memorial Gazebo along Canfield Road.

The garden will measure 30 feet by 30 feet and include four raised beds, with two sides using a “natural” fence of containers that also will be used for gardening, and the other two sides using a white picket fence that will match the gazebo. In addition, one of the beds will be elevated to show the gardening possibilities for mobility-impaired persons, according to the grant application.

“The purpose of the demonstration plot is to show residents how to grow healthy and nutritious food in limited areas,” said Salisbury. “We will employ raised beds and container growing practices.”

Salisbury explained raised bed gardens are easier to work in and can produce higher yields than traditional gardens because the soil is not compacted like that in other gardens; the soil is of higher quality; and the soil is warmer and drier, which stretches the growing season.

Salisbury said the produce from the demonstration gardens would be used to supplement the low-cost meal program at the Community and Senior Center. The containers will be planted with blackberry and raspberry canes, and the gardens will be used to grow lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower and herbs, as suggested by the Community and Senior Center officials.

In addition, the project will incorporate the use of rain barrels to collect rainwater for the garden and to demonstrate how they can help control storm water runoff, according to Salisbury.

Boy Scout Richard Kirby, of Troop No. 282, will help build the new demonstration garden for his Eagle Scout project, with work to start as soon as the new restroom is complete.

In other business at the meeting, trustees approved a little more than $8.5 million in annual appropriations for this year, which Fiscal Officer Joy Dies said was a little less than last year. Appropriations include almost $2.6 million for the Police Department; almost $2.2 million for General Fund expenditures; $1.2 million for the Fire Department, along with $652,000 from the EMS levy and $466,741 from ambulance fees; and $512,149 for the Road Department, along with $226,622 in gas tax funds and $50,000 from the motor vehicle tax. The Community and Senior Center costs include $72,941 for nutrition (meals) and $97,852 for personnel and other costs.

In the public comments portion of the meeting, senior citizen Pearl Salhany, a part-time employee at the center, expressed concern for the possible elimination of the meal program at the center. The matter had been discussed last year, and trustees decided to monitor the program.

Trustee Dean Young said the program requires $65,000 in General Fund money, in addition to grant funds, which are declining, to stay in operation. He also said the majority of those using the meal program, which offers reduced-price meals to seniors, are participants from outside the township, and Springfield taxpayers are subsidizing them.

“It’s a wonderful program, but we are concerned about the costs,” he added.

Salhany said meal purchases have increased, from $974 in February 2012 to $1,766 in February in 2013, and suggested reducing access to the center to other groups to reduce operations costs.

Young said he would not close off the center to other groups in the community, and trustees would continue to monitor the cost of the meal program.

The next trustees’ meeting is set for April 11 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, 2459 Canfield Road.

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