Since spring has now officially begun (at least by the date on the calendar), aspiring gardeners are anticipating planting season at the Macon County Community Garden located on the Greenway off of Siler Road, next to the Southwestern Community College campus.
The Macon County Community Garden project is an ideal solution for individuals who live in apartments or homes that don’t provide enough space for personal gardens. Each spring, residents can rent a 20 foot by 25 foot plot of land for $25 to grow their own vegetables. Each plot is pre-tilled and limed before the gardening season. Gardeners must supply their own seed, transplants, fertilizer, tools etc.
The garden was first started back in 2010 with only 16 plots, but has since grown to 24 over the last few years. April 13 is the date that the garden is set to open, depending on the the weather between now and then.
The community garden is a project that is overseen by the Macon County Cooperative Extension Service. The staff has developed three strategic priorities that upon implementation, would benefit the county. The first is to help strengthen the economy through profitable, sustainable and safe food, forest and green industry systems. The second priority is to protect the environment and natural resources, and the third is to empower youth and families to lead healthier lives and become community leaders.
The community garden serves as a catalyst in attaining the goals that have been set. The garden is used by a variety of ages, from those in grade school to retired gardeners. Families also take advantage of the opportunity to teach their children skills on how to grow a successful crop. According to Alan Durden, county extension director, the groups who rent the plots range from community groups in Cowee and Cartoogechaye, to 4-H clubs, home-schoolers, and fellowship groups.
“The first year we did it, we thought we'd be lucky to fill up half of the space we plotted out,” said Durden. “But there was an overwhelming reception for it and we had to expand its size after that.”
According to Simon Hyatt, who is on the Community Garden Committee, the garden has been utilized extensively by the community with at least 95 percent of the space being used and most of the time, 100 percent.
“We just kind of ask that you're respectful of your neighbors, don't grow something that is going to interfere with your neighbor's plot, or require more space than you have,” said Hyatt. “Just keep the growth under control.”
Citizens who use the garden are asked to consider donating a portion of their crops to Macon County CareNet, but the amount is up to the individual.
“I know last year we had some people who basically donated almost all of their yield,” Hyatt said, “and others who donated small amounts. I think they suggest about 10 percent, but it's ultimately up to the discretion of the gardener.”
Hyatt also says that the garden is not really designed for commercial use, therefore people cannot sell what is produced. The garden is used by average citizens looking to produce enough to feed themselves and/or their neighbors.
Space is still available for this year's garden. For those who are interested, applications can be found at the Macon County Cooperative Extension Office. To learn more, call (828)349-2046 or (828)349-2159.