This is a post on community gardening. I promise to make it cool and potentially offensive, which is reason to continue reading.

Last year, my parents began a community garden in the corner of a church yard near their home in south Greenwood, South Carolina.It was 20-by-20 feet.

April 2011 … breaking ground for the first time

Their goal was to give the neighborhood something to do together. A real, honest-to-goodness project. They had recently moved to the city, the state, the region of the country, a year prior. They knew their neighbors next door and their neighbors across the street, but that was pretty much it. They’d “crossed paths” with other folks on their street, but only these two neighbors had actually engaged in outings with them.

So why not combine something Mom and Dad loved with a chance to meet others?

Well, it didn’t go as planned. After a couple of months, the piece of land Dad had petitioned the church to use and the money Mom had been granted by the state for a community garden each seemed to represent incredible wastes of time. As the neighbors’ interest in maintaining the garden faded, so did my parents’.

By July, the square of churchyard that’d once represented so much promise looked like a weed-laden wasteland with six crappy sunflowers – and even they didn’t seem to want to be there.

They discussed not trying again this year.

Ultimately, though, they came to the decision to give it another shot. They knew where they went wrong last year and how to fix it: plant less around the house and dedicate their efforts to the community garden. I, too, became involved in this tailoring of plans, since my own gardens and flowers kept me from devoting much time to the community plot in 2011.

The general understanding was people, overall, weren’t as nearly excited to weed, hoe and put up stakes as they were to pick, paint and have cookouts. That worked out well since I, for one, happen to enjoy beating the crap out of the ground with sharp objects … and the opportunity to hit something with a mallet is icing on the cake.
  • So Dad tilled the same spot a few weeks before Easter Sunday.
  • Then we planted.
  • Then we acquired some mulch to lay around the plants.
  • Then – on one glorious Saturday that attracted half the neighborhood for the culmination of my folks’ persistence – we built, filled and planted two raised beds next to the main garden, which had grown to 20-by-25 feet.

There was no problem getting volunteers to carry to the hose to and from the garden and church to water each night; there was also no hesitation from folks when it came to painting the picnic table, decorating stepping stones and installing homemade signs declaring the place “Heaven’s Corner.”

It was – and has been – everything my parents envisioned. Already, nearly 100 pounds of squash, peppers, cucumbers and tomatoes has been donated to food banks and hungry residents. 

None of us really recognized the turnaround until a reporter from the local paper contacted Mom to write a story on the garden. The reporter had chosen a few of the community’s dozen or so gardens – and theirs was among whatever she sought. The photographer who came by a few days later said the garden was “beautiful.”

I agree. The previously vacant corner in a previously dormant neighborhood does look more attractive now to passersby.

I guess that’s good for the city and great for the neighborhood. But it’s also good for my mom and dad, who’ve seen a sort of pipedream come to life.

I guess it is a good story.

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