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Derby, CT: Osboredale Community Gardens

  • Subject: [cg] Derby, CT: Osboredale Community Gardens
  • From: adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Wed, 04 May 2005 16:03:16 -0400

DERBY - As Stan Macek gazes across the unplowed garden plots that sit atop the high point of Osbornedale State Park, his enthusiasm exhibits an eagerness for the summer planting season to begin. Macek oversees the Osbornedale Community Gardens, a non-profit group run by volunteers that provides 50 garden plots measuring 25 by 25 feet to volunteer gardeners. 

They range from young families to senior citizens, and from recent immigrants from Poland and Asia to people like Macek, who have been visiting the upland area for 30 years. 

"There's a special type of camaraderie here," Macek said. "I'm thrilled to be part of it.

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"It's great to see everyone enjoying this open space. It's a co-mingling of people. There don't seem to be problems. It's amazing how everyone gets along. This gives them an opportunity to grow vegetables," he said. 

In the past, one couple grew "fantastic potatoes," Macek recalled, and another gardener produced a five-foot long zucchini. 

The agricultural success can be attributed to the excellent quality of the virgin soil and the abundant sunshine that drenches the hilltop from sunup to sundown, he said.

The land, donated originally by the Kellogg family, is now under the jurisdiction of the Department of Environmental Protection. Those who use it must abide by state rules and regulations. 

No pesticides are allowed, and certain fertilizers are banned. There is no growing of "unlawful" vegetables, Macek said with a laugh.

The state has designated the land in the park to be used for outdoor or community enhancing projects, said Macek. The plots started out as victory gardens in the 1940s. Eventually, as more and people moved into condominiums or apartments, the land found a new use for those who had no space for vegetable gardens at home. 

Senior citizens bring lawn chairs and coolers and spend entire summer days at the Osbornedale gardens.

"It's a beautiful spot," Macek said. "There is always a breeze."

Families bring their children who learn how vegetables are grown and "to appreciate the plight of the farmer.

"We get novice gardeners who plant two inches apart," he said, but soon learn the techniques that produce healthy tomatoes, squash, peppers and radishes. 

"There is no problem with theft," he said, "but there is a problem with animals. This year there is an influx of wild turkeys. They peck away at things. Woodchucks pop out in the center of the garden."

Gardeners have come up with their own solutions to the deer problem. Some hang a crock full of human hair, while others swear by a particular brand of soap. "The thing that works is a fence," Macek said.

One gardener created an ingenious device, he continued. He put up a 30-foot pole and ran pieces of string from its top to the edges of the garden. "It's an optical illusion," Macek said. The deer are discouraged, thinking they have to jump over the highest point of the string.

Working on the plots "creates friendship," said Macek, who grew up on a farm in Orange and settled in Derby in a house with no space for a garden. 

"I bring my grandchildren up here," he said, "and they learn about growing tomatoes. They understand it takes time and care."

Derby provides the gardeners with water, and Public Works Department workers cart up water in 55-gallon drums. Oxford farmer Ed Gazy plows the gardens at a reasonable fee, Macek said.

Each gardener has a key, and the area is blocked off to traffic by a wooden rail that is raised and lowered as cars enter. Gardeners pay a $10 fee per season.

So far this season, 43 gardeners have registered, and there are two or three lots left to be claimed.

Those interested in gardening at Osbornedale may call Macek at 734-0504. 


)The Valley Gazette 2005 


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