Growing Community in the Garden  5

Most days, Newtown Park teems with runners, walkers, young athletes, dogs and dog lovers. Perhaps less visible to the average park visitor is the community garden of 41 plots where local residents grow crops, share their best gardening tips with each other and experience the joy of fresh vegetables.

The Newtown Park Community Garden sprouted from the idea of eight people working together as a project team during the inaugural year of Leadership Johns Creek.

“Together they planned the concept, raised the funds, partnered with the City of Johns Creek for the land at Newtown Park, ordered the supplies and built the garden beds,” says founding member Cindy Eade. “The fencing was contracted out, but everything inside the fence was accomplished with volunteer manpower.”

The garden launched in 2010 and was expanded six years later. It is managed by the Johns Creek Garden Association, a membership organization that oversees operations and allows all members equal voting rights. Members, who must be Johns Creek residents, pay a small annual fee for permission to manage a 4-by-8-ft. plot, agree to abide by garden rules and put in volunteer hours toward garden maintenance.

While the rules forbid the sale of produce grown onsite, gardeners benefit from consuming it themselves or sharing it with friends and family. For the times when everyone’s crops seem to ripen at the same time, gardeners can put surplus produce into a collection basket, which is delivered to North Fulton Community Charities.

“People enjoy community gardening for a variety of reasons,” says Eade. “They have too much shade in their yards to grow vegetables, they have too small or no yard in which to garden, they want to know exactly how their food is grown, they enjoy the community aspect and meeting new people, and they enjoy the exercise and being outside.”

Martha Young shares a plot with her boyfriend, Wes Eisenberg, a privilege she sought for four years before winning the annual lottery in which all applicants, including current members, must participate.

“I did a happy dance when I finally was assigned a plot in 2017,” she says. “Both Wes and I grew up gardening and get great joy growing our own vegetables. We have met a few people from the community, which is nice, but the main benefit is planting something from seed and seeing it flourish.”

Young and Eisenberg pack in as many types of crops as they can, such as tomatoes, peppers, kale, swish chard, onions, cilantro, cabbage, broccoli, arugula, lettuce and green beans. They even grow cucumbers on a tomato cage.

At the beginning of the summer growing season, gardeners receive garden soil and mulch.  They also have unlimited access to a water source right inside the garden, according to Pamela Donan, who calls herself an avid novice gardener. Having managed a plot for three years, she offered advice about becoming a better grower.

“Engage in conversation with your local nurseries and fellow gardeners,” she says. “Read almanacs, and be mindful of what your garden is saying to you.” This may involve looking for signs to alter your watering frequency or knowing when to start pruning or harvesting. And when participating in a community garden, consideration must be given to the crops of others as well as one’s own.

“We do have rules provided by the association,” says Donan. “When followed, all gardens are well maintained. Plants should not grow overly large preventing passage through the walkways and blocking sun from fellow gardeners plots.  Be mindful and respectful of others and of the good earth and ground on loan to us!”

Applications for garden plots are accepted Feb. 15 to March 15 each year. While the registration period for 2018 has passed, a visit to the garden, which is located behind the bocce ball court, this spring or summer just might get you inspired to put your name in the plot lottery next year.