SHREWSBURY – Now coming into its third year, the borough’s community garden has been an unqualified success.
The plots are so popular that officials are “pretty much telling people there’s no room at the inn,” for this year’s planting season, Mayor Donald Burden said.
Burden, who has one of the 80 plots – measuring 60 square-foot – that make up the garden, was busy last Saturday, mulching and preparing his section of the garden for planting. “It is kind of serenity time,” he said.
The garden, located on borough-owned property behind the municipal complex at 419 Sycamore Ave., was established with the assistance of $7,500 from the borough. The Garden Club of New Jersey also lent a hand, supplying a $500 grant and the assistance of the Shrewsbury Garden Club, said Maureen Collins, a member of the community garden committee.
The committee was able early on to secure approximately $10,000 in funding to install an 8-foot fence to enclose the site and keep it secure.
Burden and committee members said a big shout out has to go to the borough Department of Public Works (DPW) whose employees had done yeoman’s work. The workers laid out the original design and water lines to the property; tilled and fertilized the earth; provided about 50 to 75 yards of mulch and an area for it; created a handicap accessible walkway; and created an area for composting, Burden said.
DPW workers also constructed elevated plots, allowing easier access for disabled gardeners.
A local Eagle Scout’s project consisted of building a storage shed next to the garden.
That, along with the assistance of some area businesses and the hard work of the 10-member committee and volunteers, has allowed the project to become a full-fledged success.
Collins said she hopes the community garden will be expanded in the future to allow others to rediscover or discover the joys of gardening.
“It’s surprising to me how many, many people are interested,” Collins said.
According to Pam MacNeill, also with the garden committee, about 30 families, some from outside Shrewsbury, are involved. They use almost all of the 80 parcels available to grow a variety of fruits, flowers, vegetables, herbs and spices.
Along with families, the volunteer fire department, the Shrewsbury garden club and three area churches all have plots.
The cost is $25 per plot for the season.
Everyone works on the site’s upkeep.
“It brought a lot of people together” who work alongside each other and talk, share information and teach their neighbors about growing a better garden, Burden said.
“It really has become an educational thing,” he said.
“It’s been a learning experience,” said MacNeill, detailing how those involved with the garden have had to learn quite a bit, not only about gardening but also about caring for the property and in some cases to be respectful of others’ space.
MacNeill, a lifelong gardener, said she would like to see the garden expanded. Her involvement has allowed her to reconnect with some families she hadn’t really seen since her kids were younger.
“I think a lot of people really like that,” she said. “You see them sitting on the benches (supplied by the committee), talking, getting caught up.”
There are two plots dedicated to growing produce for Lunch Break, the Red Bank food pantry and soup kitchen. The committee maintains coolers at the site with ice packs so that those with an abundance of produce can donated it to Lunch Break as well.
Last year, members came together and held a small harvest festival during which they shared the fruits – and vegetables – of their labors, along with other potluck dishes.
“It was really lovely,” MacNeill said, adding there are plans to do it again this fall.
Burden said he would also like to see shrubs planted around the tall wood and wire fence around the garden.
The area outside of the garden is borough property. According to Collins, the Shrewsbury Shade Tree Commission is currently discussing the possibility of installing shrubs.