Kirsten Anderson was bent over her very own 5- by 8-foot patch of earth on a recent afternoon, getting dirt under her fingernails. A novice gardener and avid cook, Anderson recently bought a raised bed in the Norcross Community Garden, next to the Cultural Arts and Community Center.
“I live in an apartment,” explained Anderson, a Peachtree Corners resident. There‘s no place for her to grow her own vegetables and herbs—but she loves the idea of raising her own food just ten minutes away from her doorstep.
The new Community Garden, sponsored by the City and Sustainable Norcross, gives locals a chance to grow produce using organic products and practices—and to be educated on the topic.
Currently, four charity beds are planted and seven more are rented by community members. Girls Scouts backyard-farmed those set aside for charity, which will be kept up by community volunteers, with the bounty going to St. Patrick’s Church in Dunwoody to freshen up their food bank. The Norcross Cooperative Ministry couldn’t accept donations of fresh food, so the group had to pass on local recipients.
Four more beds, including one for people with mobility issues, are currently open—but if you want in this year, it might be best to act fast, says Connie Weathers, chair of Sustainable Norcross, who is also on the Community Garden board. The best time to plant a final summer crop will be in the next week or so.
Adam Bonner, a co-worker of Anderson’s who she recruited to help set up the bed, said he isn’t too worried about that—with new seasons come new possibilities. “You can keep this garden all year,” he said, leaning on a hoe. “In the winter, you plant things like potatoes.”
Weather said they will be encouraging people to plant year-round, using cover crops and winter crops, and that they are interested in using “hoop houses,” greenhouse kits that extend the growing season for three to four months. Dunwoody’s community garden yielded lots of lovely greens in the middle of the winter using them last season, says Weathers.
The $25 rental fee will get you use of the bed for a partial season, until Jan. 31. It comes readymade with potting soil inside the 5- by 8-inch cedar planks, though you’ll likely need to enrich and tinker with the soil.
Another aspect of the gardening group is the convivium of having others planting a few feet away. An neighborly watering system has been set up among the seven working their beds. Also, a partnership has been formed with the Suwanee Community Garden, with an open invitation to their education sessions.
Chantéz Daya, who runs the larger Suwanee garden, attended a Community Garden board meeting recently to educate members about gardening with organic practices.
“The most important thing is starting with good soil,” she said. “You want to make the clay malleable, like a sponge.” She recommended different organic “amendments” made from sometimes surprising materials, like bat guano, blood meal and fish fertilizer. “It’s nice to be organic, because you can experiment,” she said.
Daya recommended looking inside the kitchen to find clever ways to keep pests and ants at bay. A citrusy soap works wonders on ants and high-percentage vinegar will knock out weeds.
Don’t trust your green thumb, still? Community workdays will be scheduled for the four beds that are dedicated to charity—and individual volunteer work can also be arranged. Currently, Wesleyan High School plans to come back sometime in October and another workday is planned in tandem with the Great Day of Service on Oct. 10.
After all, it’s all about getting dirty together, in the name of good, clean food.
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