Community gardens blossom
Bethesda plots sold out
The county's popular community garden program is spreading its roots to the upcounty this spring.
The parks department is preparing to open its fourth community garden at the South Germantown Recreational Park in Boyds.
About 15 of the garden's 45 plots were unclaimed as of Monday afternoon, community garden coordinator Ursula Sabia-Sukinik said. The county hopes to open two more gardens by summer.
"There is a large interest in this area," she said of the year-old program establishing public gardens in underutilized parks. "It's been extremely popular."
Sligo Mill Overlook Community Garden in Takoma Park, the county's first, sold out its 33 plots before opening in May 2009, and now has a waiting list of about 45 people, Sabia-Sukinik said.
All 19 plots are sold out at the Bradley Park Community Garden in Bethesda, and 10 of 118 plots remained this week at the Briggs Chaney Community Garden in Silver Spring.
The more than 300 residents using the gardens many share their spaces represent a wide range of ages, income levels, ethnic backgrounds and gardening experience, Sabia-Sukinik said, adding the gardens often become communities unto themselves.
Most requests for new gardens have come from residents downcounty, where space to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs is at a premium, she said. Many neighborhoods have started their own, less formal gardens.
"Community gardens can be beautiful and be in community spaces, and even people who don't have plots enjoy having them in their neighborhoods," she said. "The whole program has blossomed beautifully."
Community gardens increase access to affordable, fresh and healthy food, and cut down on greenhouse gas emissions by reducing demand for produce that is shipped long distances, said Gordon Clark, project director of Montgomery Victory Gardens, a nonprofit that promotes locally grown food.
The group also advocates for faith-based community gardens where religious congregations grow food for those in need. At least 20 faith-based community gardens have been established in the county, Clark said, most in the past several years.
"It's providing an increasing source of healthy food for poor people in this county or people who are food insecure," he said.
Gardening can be a meditative experience, he said, can help people become more self-reliant and empowered.