“Gardening is cheaper than therapy, plus you get tomatoes!”
I have always loved this quote, from an unknown author. There is just something about a bit of gardening to make me feel healthier, both mentally and physically.
Health experts agree and have been touting the benefits of gardening for years. Home gardening has been linked to lowered blood pressure, lowered cholesterol, and even lowered levels of stress! Kind of makes you want to grab a spade and some seeds, and get a bit dirty, right?
But what if you can’t garden at home? What if you live in an apartment with no backyard? Or what if you have a yard that is perpetually shaded by hundred year old trees or have inferior soil, ridden with clay or marl?
Well, if your lucky, you might live in a town with a community garden!
Community gardening is a concept where prospective gardeners get simple plots of land, offered for a nominal fee or sometimes for free, and where they will find fertile soil, an available water source, and lots of support and advice.
Community gardens are valuable assets in both city landscapes and in the suburbs. They can be carved out of vacant lots, fields, and just about any undeveloped areas and residents witness a neglected or unattractive space transformed into lush Edens, overflowing with flowers and vegetables. Most community gardens encourage or require organic growing techniques and gardeners learn a lesson in sustainability by growing their own food. And as a bonus, an environment of fellowship and support usually develops, putting the community into the community garden.
Recently, I met with Amélie Harris-McGeehan, the founder of the Woodbury Community Garden, a small plot of land wedged between the YMCA and a patch of woods on Red Bank Avenue.
Ten years ago, Amélie was driven to bring a community garden to Woodbury. She had endured a battle with breast cancer, an experience that she says “shakes your core” and she had completed a program in master gardening. Motivated to take her newly acquired skills and knowledge and pay it forward, she worked hard to convince the local government that this venture would be beneficial to our small town.
But when she was awarded with a plot of land, butted right against a small sewage treatment facility, she was uncertain at first . Could this be the right space?
But taking in the area today, it is hard to imagine this land any other way! Garden plots in raised beds showcase varied produce and flowers. Robust zucchini, cucumber, beans, melon, and tomatoes are surrounded by flowers and herbs. There are healthy berry plants, carefully netted to keep out hungry birds, and corn stalks reaching toward the sky. There are benches for sitting and taking in the landscape and the place gives off a vibe of peace and contentment and is simply beautiful.
Amélie says that while she was designing this space, that she was inspired by memories of her own mother, who maintained a home where the door was always open to friends, family, and neighbors and where guests were welcomed with open arms and unconditional love and support. More than anything, Amélie wanted the Woodbury Community Garden to convey this same feeling, both to gardeners and to visitors.
“Gardening gives us so much,” she tells me, when I asked why someone would choose to join her gardening comrades here at the Community Garden.
“Community gardening is about developing an appreciation of the natural world, and about the power of growing your own food.”
“In the garden, we learn patience. And we quickly learn that we don’t and can’t know everything, in gardening and in life. We learn that it is okay to lean on others for knowledge and support and we share the knowledge we do have and work together to solve problems.”
“Here, we especially share each other’s excitement,” Amélie went on. “When someone picks their first tomato, it is an exciting moment. And how wonderful to be able to share that excitement with others!”
As Amélie continued on about the benefits of community gardening, I thought of my own home gardening experiences and challenges. Many times, I have left the vegetable garden to consult with the internet, looking for answers. Finding gigantic and bright caterpillars basking on my potato plants, finding baby rabbits in a hole under my lettuce plants, and discovering white mold on my cucumber leaves all required the support and knowledge of others. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if the community to advise and help me was right there with me in the garden?
The cost of renting gardening space at the Woodbury Community Garden is extremely affordable, at just 40 cents a square foot. Information on becoming a member is provided in the link below.
Alongside the garden, Amélie and her husband have also carved out a series of walking trails in the woods, making the location an ideal place to enjoy the outdoors.
Leaving the garden that evening, I paused and thought of all that the Woodbury Community Garden offers its users; nature, beauty, sustainability, support, and friendship.
Plus, they get tomatoes!
Amélie Harris-McGeehan and the City of Woodbury have created something truly special with the Woodbury Community Garden. Check it out!
To learn more:
Or call: (856) 845-0371