Benton-Stephens residents prepare for new season of community garden

Monday, February 25, 2008 | 3:28 p.m. CST; updated 1:38 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — On Windsor Street sits a small blue house and next to it a plot of land, vacant during the cold winter months. In just a short while, however, that land will be teeming with life, of both plants and Benton-Stephens residents, as their community garden is revived for 2008.

A potluck dinner for Benton-Stephens residents interested in the garden has been tentatively scheduled for March 15.

“I like the idea of growing your own food,” said Sherry Borcherding, who gardened last year. “I’m a vegetarian and I eat a lot of vegetables. I like knowing the food is organically grown.”

Last year marked the first time Benton-Stephens had a community garden after joining the Community Garden Coalition, a not-for-profit organization in Boone County that helps create and support neighborhood gardens.

The Benton-Stephens garden, one of 11 community gardens in Columbia, was made possible when Mark Stevenson of Real Estate Management Inc. donated a plot of land for temporary use. He said he wants to leave the shed on the property, if possible, but wants to tear down the house sitting on the property.

“It’s not worth fixing,” Stevenson said. “It’s reached the end of its useful economic life.”

Stevenson has donated several other plots of land for gardens throughout Columbia and said he thinks gardening is a great activity. He’s not sure when he will put the land on Windsor Street to other use.

Danielle Dahlin, 22, said she gardened last year because she was interested in the idea of sustainable living and thought the garden was a good opportunity to bring the community together.

“I met one girl at one of the garden meetings who is now my roommate,” Dahlin said.

The garden is separated into one larger communal garden and several individual plots measuring 5 feet by 20 feet, though this year the plots may be expanded.

Dahlin said she and three other women shared one individual plot.

“We all had the same vision of it; we thought it was awesome to grow our own food,” Dahlin said. “It’s so little money; it’s all work so it’s very fulfilling and just makes sense.”

All of the gardeners split responsibility for the communal plot of land, using a dry erase board to keep track of who had done what chore. A variety of foods were grown in the communal garden, including corn, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers.

Borcherding said that individual plots were filled with just as much variety.

There is also an herb garden.

“Herbs are something you don’t need very much of but you need several different kinds of,” Borcherding, 65, said. “So a community herb garden is a really good idea because we make all the herbs a lot of us will need and more.”

One of the main problems the garden faced last year was getting an adequate amount of water to the plants. The group collected water in rain barrels, but the drought severely limited the amount they were able to obtain. They are looking for ways to get around the problem this year.

Though some of the participants have gardened in the past, vast knowledge of gardening is not necessary to take part.

“There were people who had no idea how to garden, and there were people with experience,” Abby Scott, 29, said. “Everyone was willing to help everyone else.”

Experience may not be necessary, but a time commitment is. Borcherding, Dahlin and Scott estimated that they spent a couple hours in the garden each week.

“It’s a lot of work in the garden between the time you plant and the time you harvest,” Borcherding said. “Be prepared to work in between.”

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Kip Kendrick February 26, 2008 | 5:58 p.m.

For more information about the Benton Stephens Garden or the March Potluck, please contact Kip Kendrick at

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