Community garden takes root

Gardening educator Anna Berkheiser stands at the gates to the new garden. Photo by Robert Ford

Apartment-dwellers and homeowners who don’t want to dig up their yards no longer have to go without a garden. This year, they can plant a flower or vegetable garden at the new Saugerties Community Garden behind the Senior Center on Market Street.

The garden was formed by the Sustainable Saugerties group, whose mission is “to create local self-reliance for a post-petroleum world.” Though it’s right next to Cantine Field and the Senior Center that hosts the Town Board meetings, the land is not public – it was donated by Niki Swarthout.

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An annual fee of $30 buys a 10’ x 10’ plot. Organizers will also provide gardening advice and lend tools. Plot owners provide the seeds.

“We recently received a Learn and Serve America Garden Materials grant that will enable the garden folks to purchase tools that will be available for use by the gardeners,” said Anna Berkheiser, a gardening educator with the group.

The garden plots are all organic — no pesticides may be used. Plot owners are also forbidden from growing anything illegal or invasive. A full list of gardening dos and don’ts is available at www.saugertiesgardens.com.

The garden will have one plot reserved for education.

“We’re working with the local Boys and Girls Club to bring the youngsters down here to learn about sustainable gardening and about growing their own food,” Berkheiser said.

The organization is also hoping to bring in senior citizens to help educate them or make use of the knowledge of those who have been longtime gardeners.

Local businesses and community organizations are pitching in to help. Smith Hardware donated bags of woodchips that are being used as paths through the plots and as mulch to help keep weeds down.

William Patton, a Boy Scout with Troop 135 who is working toward his Eagle Badge, has constructed benches that are scattered throughout the garden area where tired gardeners can take their rest or folks can come and sit and commune with nature.

When completed, the garden will have 21 beds, some of which are already spoken for, but there are beds still available. To apply for a bed, go to the garden’s website and click on the contact page to fill out a form. The garden’s rules are also listed there.

For those tilling the soil at the community garden on summer afternoons, be warned: the garden is located just behind one of the baseball fields at Cantine Field, so if you’re working on your garden during a ball game, wear a helmet, because foul balls have been known to fall out of the sky and into the garden.

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