Local green thumbs dig into Ash Street community garden

Monday, March 16, 2009 | 4:38 p.m. CDT; updated 8:21 p.m. CDT, Monday, March 16, 2009
Chloe Bierman digs her hoe into the ground as her mother Melinda Calloway works alongside her on the plot of land they reserved for a garden. Calloway reserved the plot of land for free through the Community Garden Coalition.

COLUMBIA — After a friend urged MU student Mandi Mautray to get involved with community gardening, she decided she would give it a try this spring at the Ash Street garden, organized by the Community Garden Coalition.  

Both new and experienced gardeners gathered at 2 p.m. Sunday for the opening workday of the Ash Street Garden, led by Bill McKelvey and Megan Bocardi of the Community Garden Coalition. Although it is the third year for the Ash Street community garden, the “garden neighbors” are filled with almost all new faces this spring.


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The land used for plot assignments is located at 201 W. Ash St. behind apartments owned by REMI Real Estate Management Inc. REMI donates this land to the coalition along with four other large land plots in the community.

McKelvey led the beginning discussion before getting everyone to work and sectioning off plots of land for individuals to take on.

“Some areas we all share, like pathways, boundaries and the compost pile," McKelvey said. "Everyone is responsible to maintain them.”

He stressed the importance of teamwork in a variety of shared maintenance aspects, such as keeping pathways clear, putting away tools and turning off the water in the community garden. "Everyone involved is a volunteer," he said.

“You don’t have to be a master gardener to have a garden, you just have to want to do it,” said Judy Fry, an avid gardener in Columbia.

Fry’s main purpose in joining the community garden is to share her knowledge and experience of planting. As a first tip to beginners, she suggested, “Don’t mind getting dirty. If your hands, knees and feet aren’t dirty, then you haven’t done it right."

After gardening at the Ash Street community garden for the past two years, Bocardi has learned not to let the weeds get ahead of her.

Although gardening takes hard work, Fry said she suggests everyone “sit back, hear the birds, and take in the fresh air.”

The majority of community gardeners at the Ash Street garden are growing vegetables for their own enjoyment. However, the economy has led more people to grow produce, according to Fry.

Like most community gardeners, Bocardi plans on “growing different vegetables, like tomatoes, zucchinis, peppers, eggplant and potatoes."

McKelvey says that for those living in apartments or who have limited land nearby, a community garden is an opportunity to enjoy gardening.

Justin Thomas was part of a well-established community garden last year within the Community Garden Coalition. He says this year will be a new experience working with a group of people with every experience level.  

“In sharing the space, we all have an individual plot but some stuff we need to work together on,” Thomas said.   

To apply for a plot of land, go to the Community Garden Coalition's Web site.

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Ray Shapiro March 16, 2009 | 5:47 p.m.

The Community Garden Coalition might need to take some photos of the plots and shed at Paquin Park.
Considering that Parks and Rec cut back on their on-site office, which resulted in the loss of three very valuable staff members, and the expansion of Lee Elementary School into said area, it's a shame that homeless vagrants have been allowed to "rule the roost" so close to an "at-risk" population of youths and our neighbors with disabilities.

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