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Lawn & Garden

Apartment dwellers ‘digging’ community garden

7/25/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

For several years, residents of Highland Square Apartments have gathered each year to tend to a garden planted in a vacant lot behind the building. Shown working in the garden are Traci Morrison and Sandra Williams.
“We are pleasantly surprised with how the corn is doing,” said resident Williams, who is shown at left standing in the corn with Morrison.
Photos: Maria Lindsay
HIGHLAND SQUARE — For several years, residents of Highland Square Apartments, as well as some members of Christ Community Church, have gathered each year to tend to a vacant lot behind the building owned by Executive Properties and plant what will become a harvest feast in the fall.

The part-time gardeners include novices and experts who share their knowledge. Some are retirees, and there are also two college students, a woman from Russia, a Kent State University professor and another woman from Ghana.

The group of gardeners work together and individually to prepare the garden for planting. They plant a variety of seeds and seedlings, with each participant assigned a plot in the garden to plant whatever they want. They check on the progress of the garden daily, and weed and water it to nurture the plants.

“We wanted to create a sense of community and give our tenants a little something extra,” said apartment Manager Michael Morrison. “It’s become a fun thing, and we are having a blast.”

One of the resident gardeners, Sandra Williams, is a retiree who worked for a greenhouse for 18 years. Williams said she used that background to guide her and others in planting the garden.

“This has become a great community gathering place,” said Williams. “The garden is beautifying the neighborhood instead of leaving this lot barren. And it is good for those who have stressful jobs.”

Two months after all the hard work began, the garden is lush with everything from beans to zucchini. Also growing are pumpkins, strawberries, lettuce, squash, cucumbers, okra, peas, watermelon and more. In addition, there are herbs such as cilantro and basil, and for the first time, corn was planted. Radishes and scallions have already been harvested and enjoyed, and gardeners are nurturing the rest of plants to maturity.

Some of the plantings have included the more unusual items, such as the tomatillo, which is used to create green sauces.

In addition to the vegetables and herbs, sunflowers, marigolds and other flowers were planted along the garden edges to attract bees and help pollinate the vegetables.

Williams said the garden is doing well.

“The garden is green and healthy,” said Williams. “We are pleasantly surprised with how the corn is doing, although we did have to come out after the storm and prop up the stalks. The beans did not do so well, and we had to replant them. Then we had to thin some of the beans.”

Williams also said they have learned over the years how to compensate for some deficiencies, such as a low spot that can get washed out.

Morrison, who tends his plot with his wife, Traci, as first-time gardeners, said having a number of gardeners work together has had some advantages.

“We have planted some different things, and we are getting to try some new things and enjoy them together,” he said.

Morrison also said there is a friendly competition among gardeners who compare how their plantings are doing, but they all help each other. Currently, a resident’s corn is in competition with corn planted by the pastor of the church, and the resident is winning, he said.

Williams added that sunshine, rain, some luck and hard work are producing results, and all the gardeners will gather in September for a feast to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

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