Located in Frenchtown, NJ, the Garden enables residents to grow their own organic food in a community setting.
Unfortunately, this site was compromised, please excuse our appearance while we rebuild
How was the garden initiated? Where did the land come from and who had the vision? How long had the idea been in the works?
Robert Myhre, a charter member of the Frenchtown Lions Club, proposed in March 2009 that a community garden be created on a vacant floodplain lot that belonged to the Borough of Frenchtown. It had been a privately occupied lot with a house. After several floods negatively impacted the house, FEMA bought the property, razed the structure, and turned it over to the Frenchtown Borough. The property became officially accessible to the public in late spring, 2010. The purpose of this venture was to offer local residents an opportunity to learn the art and science of organic gardening.
What was involved in getting the garden off the ground the first year? How did you prepare the plot? Recruit help? Recruit gardeners?
Frenchtown Lions Club provided seed money and a generous monetary donation was made by an interested local merchant. Deer would have destroyed any crops and a high protective fence was an absolute necessity. Fencing was procured by the Frenchtown Lions Club and members collaborated with local farmer Walter Schneiderwind to dig the holes and install the deer fencing. In addition to donating the poles, Walt also brought manure, tilled the soil, and created raised beds to aide drainage of the low-lying property. John Mizin, a local gardener with lots of knowledge and energy, was asked to oversee the project as Garden Manager. In 2011, John asked one of the gardeners, Richard Reilly, to act as co-manager. Two public meetings were announced in the Hunterdon Democrat to inform the people of Frenchtown of the availability of plots in the Community Garden. We are currently at capacity, with 15 plots allocated to local gardeners and one plot out of rotation because of problems with drainage.
What have been your biggest challenges from the beginning through the present? What are your greatest frustrations? What do you need to make the garden even more successful?
The property on which the Frenchtown Community Garden is situated originally became available because of its location in the floodplain of the Delaware River. We found the soil to be a varying mixture of sand and clay. Our ongoing task is to increase the ability of our soil to absorb moisture through the addition of organic materials. To that end we are collecting leaf mulch from the Frenchtown Borough, manure from a local farmer and grass clippings from the county. We have also initiated a compost collection system available to anyone in Frenchtown. Fruit and vegetable scraps now come to us from various restaurants and individual households. These materials are being actively mixed with other compost materials in large bins at the Community Garden. Keeping a constant supply to feed our compost piles is an ongoing challenge. To improve the garden’s productivity, we continue to create as many raised beds as possible on the various plots. This helps improve drainage and prevents run-off. Other ongoing projects include: laying wood chips between rows and on all paths to keep the weeds down and developing a worm farm for leaf composing. Garden co-manager John Mizin has long been collecting earth worms and red wriggler worms which he has added to a large, separate leaf-weed compost pile.
What do you consider your greatest accomplishments? What, in concrete terms, have you accomplished since the start?
Community participation has been critical from the start of the garden right up until now. All the community participation has meant the following:
*The generosity of the Lions Club in sponsoring and spearheading the project and the vision of Lions Charter Member Robert W. Myhre were critical to getting the project off the ground.
*Donations of building materials from Home Depot, money from a generous local merchant and lots and lots of Lions Club time and labor made our shed and fence a reality. Particular credit goes to Lion Paul Nichols for all his time and the use of his impressive skills in building the shed and gate.
*Tilling of the ground, enrichment of the soil and countless other tasks would not have been possible without the help and knowledge of Walter Schneiderwind.
*Composting of the town’s fruit and vegetable scraps is made possible by the town’s restaurants and individuals, as well as thanks to the donation of palettes from UpDyke Lumber.
*The Public Works Department, the Fire Department and the Town Council have all been great supporters of the Community Garden.
What is your vision for the future? Do you have plans to expand? How would you like to improve the garden? Are there other projects, connected with the Community Garden, that you would like to undertake?
We’d like to begin a second garden so we can accommodate more gardeners. We’d also like to put raised beds in as many plots as possible and develop some sort of rainwater collection system. We’re still working on installing the pipes to bring water spigots in from the town water main. Once the ground dries out, we hope to have that job done soon. Eventually, we’d like to help maintain the garden by selling some of what we grow at a local farmers’ market.