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Two towns' gardens put emphasis on community

Staff writer

Hillsboro’s community garden, begun just this spring, has been growing so well that produce was handed out at the county fair.

Marion’s community garden, begun by FFA in 2016, continues going strong.

Marion’s garden contributes to feeding the community by donating produce to the county food bank.

Resource center coordinator Cathy Henderson said community garden volunteers had donated lots of vegetables this year. Spinach, corn, lettuce, and onions have been especially good, she said.

Early cantaloupe already is coming in, Henderson said.

Produce is displayed on shelves by a pantry door and has been very popular, she said.

Deliveries to the food bank have been down just a bit in the last couple of weeks, but Henderson thinks recent high temperatures have slowed production.

According to community garden coordinator Pam Byers, garden has been different every year since it started, and volunteers are working toward perfection.

Tomatoes and cucumbers are late this year. She expects that is because of recent high temperatures.

The project has been blessed with an abundance of volunteers, she said.

Some take care of planting, some watering, some mowing, and some keeping down weeds.

“One evening we were planting; and I had 15 people planting tomatoes,” Byers said.

An electric fence has been added around corn plants to keep raccoons away.

“We’re trying to improve every year,” she said.

Rabbits are a different story. They have made themselves comfortable in the garden.

“They’ve been eating a lot of little plants,” she said. “They kind of mosey off. They don’t even run.”

While okra is slow this year, a new variety of spinach has been abundant and will continue until fall.

“We have been supplying onions since May,” Byers said. “We just took the last of them Thursday.”

So far, 1,400 pounds of food has been donated to the food bank this year, Byers said.

Besides the food bank, produce from the community garden is taken to Marion Senior Center to be distributed with government commodities.

Fall crops also will make an appearance this year.

“We’re growing Brussels sprouts,” she said. “They’re a fall crop. They’ll go into October.”

She also has been doing succession planting.

“As one crop is done, we plant another one,” she said.

Volunteers have stayed on top of weed control, and recent dry weather also has helped keep weeds at bay.

She also chooses plants with an eye to which are good for pollinators.

Four volunteers help Monday and Thursday with harvesting, coming early in the morning, while it’s cool.

Two volunteers see to watering the garden and coordinate according to their schedules.

“The volunteers feel an ownership,” Byers said.

Hillsboro community garden is a project of the school’s fifth grade class.

Emerson Corby, 10, who will go into sixth grade in the fall, coordinates the project.

His 4-H experience in horticulture is a benefit, he said. He won reserve grand champion for his tomatoes at this year’s county fair.

The garden is near the city’s museums.

“We had tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, corn, cantaloupe, and an abundance of herbs,” he said.

The heat of high summer has been hard on the tomatoes, he said, but if they are watered daily, they do OK.

Cantaloupes were planted later than the rest of garden, so he doesn’t expect to harvest them until October. Nevertheless, cantaloupe plants are doing surprisingly well, he said.

Besides kids working the garden, adults help with weeding, he said.

Planting began in March after the last frost of the year.

“We put potatoes and onions in at that time,” he said. “I really am enjoying it, and the members of the garden club are all sad that we have to give it up next year.”

This year’s garden club members will be able to continue as volunteers, but the program is set up so the fifth grade class will be in charge.

Plants and seeds cost the students nothing thanks for a grant from the Extension District.

Garden Club members aim to keep the garden organic. No pesticides are sprayed on it, and if a bug problem develops, an organic solution is sought.

“In the fall, be on the lookout for okra and cantaloupe,” said Emerson’s father, school superintendent Clint Corby.

Last modified Aug. 11, 2022

 

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