The Maplewood Community Garden is now accepting applications for plots for its second gardening season, according to its creator Irene Dunsavage.
Dunsavage, a resident of Maplewood, was a retired teacher when she decided to take a class in master gardening at Rutgers University. Soon after becoming involved with the class, she came up with the idea for a community garden.
“I started thinking about the community, how (Maplewood’s) a progressive place and how we want to work on sustainability, and I thought, ‘let me start a garden,’” Dunsavage said.
After a period of time spent scouting out spots for her community garden and convincing Town Hall and Maplewood residents that the community garden was a good idea - “these things are always much harder than they appear,” Dunsavage said - she was given the go-ahead and a space was created behind City Hall for the garden.
There are currently 30 separate plots behind City Hall, two of which Dunsavage said were used solely to grow food and herbs for two local food pantries, Our Lady of Sorrows and St. Joe’s.
According to Dunsavage, 1,200 lbs. of food were donated to the pantries by the end of the first gardening season.
“There is no reason anyone should go hungry when you can grow your own food,” she said.
Overall, Dunsavage said she felt the first gardening season went really well. “(The gardeners) grew heirloom tomatoes, okra, gourd, beans and cabbage, and lots of herbs like basil, rosemary, sage and oregano,” Dunsavage said, adding that many of the participants had told her they still had tomato sauce and pesto sauce that they had made and frozen after the completion of the gardening season.
Dunsavage said of the 30 residents who participated in the garden last year, only eight decided not to return this year. “And that was because they either moved or decided it was too difficult to take care of their garden with family obligations,” she said.
One of the participants who decided to return to gardening was Joy Yagid, who said she had always wanted to have a garden at her house, but because of the lack of sunlight her property gets she was unable to.
“When I was growing up I had a garden, and this was my family’s opportunity to have one,” Yagid said.
Yagid added that although gardening was difficult at first, she “enjoyed it immensely,” adding that her daughter was “ecstatic” when her plants began to grow.
Yagid also said she liked that the garden was all-organic and didn’t allow the use of pesticides.
According to Dunsavage, the no-pesticide rule was created to ensure gardeners knew exactly what was in the food they were growing and consuming.
According to Dunsavage, if she gets enough participants to sign up for this growing season, (which starts in mid-May and runs through October,) she plans to open up another gardening area with 30 more plots near the community pool.
In addition, Dunsavage would like to create a gardening program for high-school students attending the Montrose alternative school for at-risk kids in the district of South Orange-Maplewood. Dunsavage said she had spoken with school superintendent and was currently working on some of the legal questions that need to be answered before going forward.
The total cost of a plot in the Maplewood Community Garden for a season is $80. $40 goes to the town for a water fee, while $25 is a deposit and $15 goes towards purchasing soil and tools for the garden.
Those interested in a plot should visit http://maplewoodcommunitygarden.com/ or www.maplewoodisgreen.org.