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Park Township, MI: Service of Community Garden to Neighborhood

  • Subject: [cg] Park Township, MI: Service of Community Garden to Neighborhood
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Mon, 5 Jul 2004 16:43:46 EDT

Ottawa County church's community garden serves the neighborhood
The Associated Press
7/5/2004, 1:44 p.m. ET

PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - John Dykstra turns the soil between his peas, lettuce, basil, spearmint and squash. As a plot-taker at Third Reformed Church's Community Garden, he's not only cultivating crops, he's cultivating new friends in the community.
The 13-plot garden serves the church and the surrounding neighborhood in Ottawa County's Park Township.
"We use the garden as a way to foster a community in the church and get people outside the church to join us," said the garden's caretaker, Jon Van Duinen of Holland.
"I've met people here, like Jon, who I normally don't run into at church," said Dykstra, who makes three weekly maintenance visits to the garden. "I don't really enjoy gardening ... it's something that my wife (Linda) enjoys, but this (plot) is manageable."
Dykstra also met church member Mike Van Doornik of Holland at the garden. Van Doornik's residence is shaded with trees, so he can't grow vegetables at his own home.
"This is me," Van Doornik said, pointing out his four tomato plants and green beans with soil-stained gloves. "These are easy to grow, and I like growing them. I live in the woods and since vegetables need sun, I don't get to plant much."
Van Doornik's plot is well maintained. His neighbor's, however, is a bit too green for this time of the season. "Look here! Someone didn't do their weeding," he says.
Kathy Schoon Tanis admits she is the guilty culprit. She and her husband Joel stocked their plot with mint, basil, marigolds, watermelon, pepper, cucumbers, and even two pink flamingos.
The birds do a good job at keeping the rodents away, but not the weeds.
"This is our first garden," Schoon Tanis says, uprooting a few leafy "pigs' feet" weeds. "And I've learned a ton. Even just the basics like, you need a trellis for cucumbers and marigolds (to) keep critters away ... and mint is invasive."
The mint hint came from gardener Jennifer Boersen, who labeled her basic, chives, cilantro, lavender, anil, dill and parsley in her herb garden.
"But no mint," Boersen says. "It's so invasive and I didn't want it to go everywhere."
Boersen, a church member, grows a garden at home and planted the church garden for the community. She welcomes anyone in the neighborhood to stop by and take a pinch if they need it.
"Herbs are so expensive in the grocery store so it's fine if someone comes by and takes a fresh snip," she said. "The plants benefit from the pruning anyway."
Van Duinen, a newcomer to gardening, is thankful some plot-takers can offer experience. He's taken advice on how to grow his tomatoes, peppers, onions, bean and Swiss chard. "A lot of us are not gardeners, so we rely on people like Jennifer to help us," he said.
Marilyn Norman uses a hoe to pull weeds from her half-plot veggie garden. Her young bean plants are looking hardy and she'll sow another row soon. She'll plant spinach in late summer, although she admits she hasn't been successful with the dark greens in the past.
"I just like being outside," she said.
Jon Van Duinen's wife Deb said dozens of people have stopped by already on foot, bike or car, inquiring about the garden. The treeless, sunny corner lot is a "great spot" to house a community garden, she said.
The Van Duinens installed an irrigation system to water the hardwood-framed beds. The gardeners pay $20 for a plot and are responsible for its upkeep and plants. The church pays for all other expenses.
Some choose to plant by seed, others by seedlings. So far this season, only the herbs and radishes are ready for harvest.
Although some of the produce goes to charity, the gardeners themselves are welcome to their veggies.
Van Doornik might have a few of his own veggies, but his harvest is sure to produce more than he can ingest. "I'd like to give it away. It would be a pleasure to give it away."
Dykstra also welcomes veggie pickers. "I don't plan on eating thousands of tomatoes, so what I can't handle will be up for grabs," he said.
Boersen walks past everyone's garden, noticing the variety of food planted. She has her own idea about what to do with the late summer harvest.
"We should have a harvest and have a barbecue right here," she said. "Oh, yum."
The gardeners at Third Reformed Church have designated Thursday evenings as their community work night and welcome anyone in the neighborhood to stop by and help out.
"People can really work whenever ... it's just a nice way to spend time together," Van Duinen said.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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