Friday, July 12, 2013

Community Garden fills a blooming need by Michelle Libby

Two women stood in the middle of the Windham Community Garden. “I heard on the weather channel there’s late blight in New Jersery. I called Blue Seal to see about some copper.”
“We should get on that,” the other woman said. When gardeners get together they talk about the weather and the crops. It’s no different at the Windham Community Garden where there are 75 beds on Route 202.

The Windham Community Garden is run by a 10 person committee. Each committee member is in charge of overseeing the food pantry beds and making sure that someone around one of those beds is watching out for those crops.

The gardens are all organic. Gardeners are not allowed to use pesticides or harsh chemicals per the organization’s bylaws. They do care about getting rid of the pests. They use surf and turf compost from Benson’s Farm, lime to regulate the soil, Neem Oil and Surround crop protectant.

“There is a misconception,” said committee member Marge Govoni. “We live in Maine, why do we need a community garden? We have a lot of trees. Trees and woods are not compatible with growing, they provide a lot of shade. Gardens need sun.”

What is grown at the community garden is everything and anything. Tomatoes, carrots, beans, peas, cucumbers, garlic, corn, zucchini, squash, broccoli, flowers and more. Fourteen of the total beds grow crops for the Windham food pantry. Last year the garden donated over 2,100 pounds of produce including tomatoes, carrots, string beans, peas, cucumbers and two types of squash. Last year they planted winter squash for the food pantry, but a farm nearby also grew and donated winter squash, so they chose something else this year, said Govoni.

The land the garden is on is town-owned. “If the town required it back, we would give it back at anytime,” Govoni said. From an aerial view the garden is all beds except for the middle. There is a hill where the gardeners have built some rock sculptures, although they tried using it, it is all ledge and nothing could grow there.

After the first year, 2010, with no water at the garden, Fire Chief Charlie Hammond gave permission to have a water line hooked into the fire department and now there are 12 spigots for easy access to water. 

The group holds regular educational sessions led by cooperative extension on pest control and other topics important to the success of their gardens.

This year, the community garden board had to return to the town council to get permission to expand the garden. There is usually a waiting list for beds in the garden. However, due to people moving or lack of ability to care for the garden there isn’t one. The process for getting a plot of land begins in the middle of the winter, said Govoni. An application must be filled out and submitted and applicants must agree to abide by the rules and bylaws. “We supply all the tools,” Govoni said.

The group does charge for a bed, but they also offer two fundraisers each year, a fall harvest supper and a chili challenge in February. They also have been awarded a grant for a new “group house”, which is a cross between a green house and a hoop house for winter plants and extending the growing season.

The garden is looking for more members to be on the committee and is always looking for volunteers who need community service hours. “We want people who care and who have a passion, one, for gardening and two, for helping folks. We make a commitment for our gardeners to be successful. We ask that they be healthy and can work,” said Govoni. “And taking care of this garden is work.”
For more information on the Windham Community Garden, visit 

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