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Toledo Ohio: Community Gardens - Urban Greenewal: Fruits,Vegetables and Flowers are thriving in lots throughout the city

  • Subject: [cg] Toledo Ohio: Community Gardens - Urban Greenewal: Fruits,Vegetables and Flowers are thriving in lots throughout the city
  • From: adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Wed, 30 Aug 2006 19:07:38 -0400

Urban greenewal: Fruits, vegetables, and flowers are thriving in lots
throughout the city

Taylor Howard, 6, left, and Nazhiere Taylor, 6, check to see whatbs growing
in the garden at the Frederick Douglass Community Center in Toledo.

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Jennifer Dennis vaguely recalls playing in her mother's garden as a little
girl. But in the past couple of years, the 15-year-old Whitmer High School
10th grader has discovered the joy of tending plants in a small community
garden in her West Toledo neighborhood.
"I love it. It's a lot of fun," she said on a recent summer morning, hunched
over a raised vegetable bed pulling dew-covered weeds from soil in a garden
enclosed in the courtyard at Washington Junior High School.

Cucumbers are abundant for harvesters Taylor Howard, 6, left, Maria Dee, 4,
second from right, and counselor Shevis Harris, right, at the Frederick
Douglass Community Center garden.

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She is among many people who enjoy spending a few hours a week in the late
spring and summer working in recreational community gardens across the city.
Community gardening on vacant city lots and on school, church, neighborhood,
and civic organizations' grounds has been booming for the past couple of
decades in many cities across the country.
In Toledo, about 37 community gardens have sprouted up following the creation
of Toledo GROWs in 1995. A gardening outreach initiative of Toledo Botanical
Garden, Toledo GROWs was started by the Ohio State University extension

Kathy Striker tends plants in the garden at the Ten Eyck Tower apartment
complex near downtown Toledo.

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"We function as a plant library. We provide resources like gardening tools,
wood chips for gardens, seeds, and - most of all - education on how to improve
soil quality for a garden," said Michael Szuberla, director of Toledo GROWs.
He said community gardens make an impact in many cities, increasing the value
of homes in some neighborhoods and promoting resident stability in apartment
complexes where people generally don't have green space.

Jennifer Dennis uses shears to trim a bush in the garden at Washington Junior
High School.

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On a sunny Saturday morning, Mr. Szuberla pulled weeds in the community garden
at the Ten Eyck Tower apartment complex at Jefferson Avenue and 21st Street
near downtown.
He worked with a group of teenagers in the Community Integration and Training
for Employment Program of the Lucas County Juvenile Court system. The group is
among five summer programs partnered with Toledo GROWs to work on community
gardens in the city.
"One of the challenges of urban gardening is the breaking of the ground," Mr.
Szuberla said. "In most cases, we end up just piling a lot of dirt and manure
on the lot, and that is how we start the garden."
At Washington Junior High, community gardening has "opened the eyes of
students who never really thought of gardening as something people do for
fun," said Scott Michaelis, a math teacher and special projects educator.
The garden was started in 2002. It is in an enclosed compound that was once an
empty floodplain that students barely frequented. With a row of raised garden
beds, a gazebo, and wooden benches, the garden is now a popular student
It has a manicured lawn and shade from a few cherry and apple trees, Mr.
Michaelis said. Every year, the students add to the garden, which has gone
from a few simple beds to an area featuring a range of flowers, along with
tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green peppers, spearmint beds, and a rock garden,
he said.
During the academic year, the garden is run by the school's student council.
In the summer, it is maintained by students and former students.
Drew Kidd, 14, a ninth grader at Whitmer, said he loves spending some of his
summer mornings working in the Washington Junior High garden. "It's fun," he
said. "I like working in the garden because it gives me something to do and I
also like to have something to do outdoors when the weather is good."
For Shirley Tucker, a longtime Ten Eyck Tower resident, the community garden
in front of her building is not only for recreation, but for her health.
"I have multiple sclerosis and I am limited in my exercise. Gardening is my
exercise," she said, noting that she likes to rise early in the morning to
work in her raised-bed section of the garden, where she grows squash, collard
greens, potatoes, okra, and red and white onions.
"The most exciting thing for me is when I come into the garden in the summer
and look under a leaf or a bush and see something new," Ms. Tucker said.
"That's one of the reasons I love gardening because I am often surprised by
what will grow."
Contact Karamagi Rujumba at:
or 419-724-6064

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