Helena Community Gardens off to an official start

Published 3:45 pm Monday, July 1, 2013

From left, Michelle Otis, Kathy Whitman, Kristi Watts, Barbara Huffstetler, Dr. Shashi Sharma, and Kathy Hall. (contributed)

From left, Michelle Otis, Kathy Whitman, Kristi Watts, Barbara Huffstetler, Dr. Shashi Sharma, and Kathy Hall. (contributed)

By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist

After raised beds started appearing in the empty lot alongside Maplewood Lane Assisted Living near Joe Tucker Park, a lot of folks began asking questions about just what was going on.

Having visited with Barbara Huffstetler, administrator at Maplewood Lane earlier in spring, I learned the first community garden would be placed on the acreage owned and donated by Dr. Shashi Sharma of Opelika, also owner of Maplewood Lane.

Kristi Watts, an employee there, previously designed raised (wheelchair-accessible) wooden beds for residents on the back patio. Thus the community garden is an extension of her creation there.

Helena Community Gardens officially broke ground on June 15, with about six concrete beds, sixteen by four feet, already in place and planted. Watts says there will ultimately be room for 120 plots.

Those gardeners constructing a bed will spend about $170 for blocks and dirt. The annual fee will be waived for them for this year.

Anyone can rent and plant whatever they wish and maintain a plot for an annual fee of $60. The garden soil comes from Helena Landscape Supply and is sold by the scoop.

Kathy Whitman said, “I live in Plantation South and have no sun in my yard and no place to garden. I think once this takes off, people will flock over here.”

“I first saw this on the No Sleep in Helena blog. Hal Woodman has been very supportive and it was he who provided our sign banner. I enjoy gardening and knew I wanted to be a part of this,” said Gena Morris. Morris had already started garlic to share with other bed owners.

Jodi Doss and Steven Crane, who work at The Depot, say they “liked this great idea — we can plant our vegetables and meet our neighbors.”

As the national Community Garden website reads: “Sow the seeds for a garden and you may be surprised at what grows alongside the vegetables and fruits. Little minds sprout and flourish. Friendships blossom. Communities thrive. Harvest the garden and it nourishes the body and mind, provides revenue, and instills respect for a greener, sustainable environment.”

The Helena Community Garden has been helped along by donations — a tool shed and fence are planned — and welcome any contributions. For more information, please see the Helena Community Gardens facebook page.