Plant a Garden, Grow Community

By Meghan Lindstrom

Gardening is a popular pastime, but what happens when you don’t have the space to create the garden of your dreams?

Community gardens is the answer.

“Anyone in an apartment or townhome who doesn’t have a large enough spot to garden now has the opportunity to do so,” explains Jamey Snyder, recreation operations manager for Woodstock Parks and Recreation.

Community gardens allow even citizens without space to garden to dig in the dirt and grow flowers and vegetables, all while growing a stronger community.

The benefits of community gardens are bountiful. While gardening itself is great for mental and physical health by allowing an escape from daily hassles and promoting physical activity and healthy eating habits, community gardens also offer a social aspect by bringing locals together to bond over their love for gardening.

For some folks gardening is a pastime that provides solitude and relaxation. For others, like Diane Geeslin, it is a way to stay rooted in nature while also being a part of a greater community. Diane is a master gardener who has been making full use of the Woodstock Community Garden for around nine years. “I love gardening because it is a pleasure and so rewarding,” Diane says. “Being a part of a community of other gardening people and sharing our knowledge, laughs, and company is really nice.”

Bee careful! The Woodstock community gardens often host beekeeping demonstrations and classes on the importance of a healthy bee population.

Cherokee County residents have access to two productive community gardens: one in Canton and one in Woodstock.

The Canton Community Garden

Just south of Downtown Canton sits the Canton Community Garden, teeming with life. This garden is located at the four-way stop of East and West Marietta Streets.

Long-time gardener and Canton Community Garden organizer Roy Taylor and his wife purchased the land the garden sits on as an investment property. They live close to the property and found that their yard was not ideal for growing a garden. “It came to me that maybe there were others around who, for similar circumstances, couldn’t garden in their backyard, or maybe they didn’t even have a backyard,” Roy says. “We could offer this opportunity to the community.”

The original slogan for promoting the garden was “Plant a Garden, Grow Community.” Roy and the helping hands who volunteered to help make the garden what it is today have accomplished those things in a variety of ways.

About twenty plots range in size at the Canton Community Garden, but most are fourteen by four feet. When plots are available, anyone who asks can use the garden to plant flowers and vegetables.

At no cost gardeners are assigned plots to use for the growing season; however, contributions are welcome in forms of cash, labor, or materials. All fruits of the gardeners’ labor are theirs to keep, although they are asked to follow the garden rules. No petrochemical fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides are allowed, and always turn off the water before you leave.

The garden bustles with opportunity and love for the community. It is also a location for a Little Free Pantry, which offers food to locals in need. A growing Facebook group called The Canton Pantry Angels keeps it stocked.

As a celebration of the garden, the Tomato Sandwich Festival was started and is held annually as part of the Canton Farmer’s Market each summer and serves delicious sandwiches featuring locally grown tomatoes.

Roy comments, “The past two years have been hard for the garden. Weather issues, COVID, and encroaching development have taken a toll. Every January when the seed catalogs come out, there is renewed hope of what the next year will bring. We are looking forward to it.”

If you wish to get involved, there is always work to be done. The Canton Community Garden accepts contributions of all kinds. For more information about the garden or to reserve a plot, contact Roy at wrldpeas@mindspring.com or 678-451-8602.

Who says your community garden can’t be a landscape feat? Community Gardener Diane Geeslin’s plot is a certified pollinator garden.

 

The Woodstock Community Garden

The ever-growing Woodstock Community Garden is located on Arnold Mill Road and has a total of fifty-five plentiful plots for community members to reserve. This growing season is the fourth at this location after moving from the Woodstock Chattahoochee Tech location three years ago.

The initial purpose of this city-funded garden was to give a place to garden to the citizens of Woodstock who don’t have that opportunity.

“It’s a good program, and it’s nice to be able to offer different avenues of outdoor recreation as opposed to the traditional options,” says Jamey.

The garden is full of a variety of plants and wildlife. Some gardeners focus on growing vegetables for themselves or for donating to food pantries, while others grow flowers to attract pollinators.

“My garden is a certified pollinator garden that helps our bees and butterflies, which is very important,” explains gardener Diane. She stocks her garden full of butterfly weed, catmint, and moon flowers for pollinators of all kinds. “We have another gardener who plants vines that attract hummingbirds.”

For twenty-five dollars you can get you a ten by ten plot at the Woodstock Community Garden for a year. Plot registration opens for new gardeners on March 15, 2022, to residents of Woodstock first and to those who are outside the community after two weeks. Existing-member gardeners may sign up starting March 1, 2022.

If you don’t get a plot in time, don’t fret! Many other Woodstock Parks and Recreation programs invite you to get involved, such as Take a Plant, Leave a Plant and educational classes, including Discovering Beekeeping.

Additionally, Woodstock Parks and Recreation has big plans to expand the garden and provide more opportunities for locals. “We are looking at another piece of land to turn into a garden and a food forest,” explains Jamey with excitement. “This plan has been pitched to City Council but will take more planning and support before getting approved.”

The food forest would show the progression of food growing and gathering from Native American times up to now. It would include signs showing original foraged foods, such as mushrooms and nuts, to imported foods, such as fruit trees, to the farming and gardening we have today. It will provide the opportunity for more gardeners to take root and also allow for more educational purposes, such as field trips.

The Canton community garden is full of plots waiting to be filled. By springtime, it will be teeming with plants of all kinds. Contact Roy Taylor to reserve a plot.

To learn more about the Woodstock Community Garden or find more ways to get involved, visit Woodstock.recdesk.com.

The Canton and Woodstock Community Gardens are overflowing with opportunities. If you have been on the fence about participating in your local community garden program, dig in and plant some seeds, not only in your plot but also in your community.