Some Favorite Sites
Government/ Community Links
Garden Will Feed Neighbors & Help Patients Heal
by Cora Lewis | Aug 20, 2013 1:29 pm
Posted to: Food, Health, The Hill, Gardener Of The Week
A new community garden in the Hill neighborhoods stands at the corner of two streets with relevant names: Sylvan and Asylum.
The garden, a collaboration between neighbors and the nearby Connecticut Mental Health Center (CMHC), had an opening celebration this past Friday evening.
It will help feed a neighborhood while helping mental-health patients heal and become part of their community.
Among those present at the Friday party were Geanine Peck, a co-director of the garden and CMHC staffer. and Sabrina Davis, pictured above with her daughter Cassidy, who just turned 12 months old. Peck showed Davis how to pick spicy mesclun greens, and the two discused turning vegetables into baby food. Davis, who lives around the corner from the garden, said she expects to spend a lot of time in the space in the future.
“We cleared the land, we built the beds, planted the seedlings, and the Hill North community has welcomed us,” Peck said.
Peck said she always gardened with her father while growing up. Her desire to recreate these experiences partly led to her role in the creation of the new green space.
After talking with community members at the opening event, she said she’s “already learning.” Apparently, gardeners have been cutting off the bottom leaves of the collard greens. “Some neighbors have told me we should leave them—so they’ll sweeten. We’ve also been told we should wait until first frost to pick them.”
Other visitors told her they would like to grow corn and okra next year. A whiteboard by the garden’s entrance, which anyone can write on, is intended to record this kind of message and advice – as well as announcements about what vegetables are ready to harvest, and dates of upcoming events and workdays.
Dave Luther, Dave Luther, the director of engineering of the Advanced Nursing Rehabilitation Center, and Hill Alderwoman Jackie James cut the ribbon at Friday’s event. The garden occupies what had been an overgrown and undeveloped lot owned by the Center. Members of the Center helped clear the land and provide the fencing for the garden. Residents of the Center will also use the space, which is wheelchair accessible and includes a wheelchair-height garden bed.
So far, the garden offers eggplant, multiple varieties of tomato, collared and mesclun greens, cabbages, beets, and several other flowers and plants.
Ann Joy, director of outpatient rehabilitation services for CMHC, already brings patients to work on the garden. ”Just the act of gardening is therapeutic, and nutrition is a major issue for many of our patients,” she said.
Some of the patients have a cooking group. They’re thinking of making a fresh marinara out of the tomatoes this week. They will also be responsible for weeding and maintaining the lots throughout the year.
“It’s important to create defensible places,” said mayoral candidate and state Sen. Toni Harp, who spoke at the event about poor access to fresh fruits and vegetables in Connecticut cities. Community gardens “nourish bodies, communities, and souls,” she added, saying the garden has already helped “stabilize this corner.”
The garden supports patients’ goals of returning to the community with longer term goals of returning to the workforce, also a goal of an CMHC Citizenship Project.
The produce harvested is available to all neighbors. They in turn will help tend to and maintain the green space.
Community members hydrated during the garden’s opening event. The water authority irrigated the land, which had been dry, and donated water for the opening event. Golden Acres in West Haven donated all of the seedlings, and the Land Trust helped provide soil, wood, and labor.
Travis James showed off a tomato he just picked. “My sister is 9 years old, I’m 7 years old, and this tomato is less than 1 years old,” he said, introducing everyone.
Tina Melton, whose brother (pictured, behind the fence) lives in the neighborhood, prepared to pick an eggplant.
Post a Comment
”After talking with community members at the opening event, she said she’s “already learning.” Apparently, gardeners have been cutting off the bottom leaves of the collared greens. “Some neighbors have told me we should leave them—so they’ll sweeten. We’ve also been told we should wait until first frost to pick them.”
Great job! One thing: All the various folk wisdom makes gardening seem more confusing than it really is. Everybody thinks they know what’s best, including me!
Your Collard leaves should be at least the size of a baseball mitt before you pick them, don’t pick anything smaller. And yes, pick from the bottom. Use a scissors if you’re nervous, or just snap the whole branch off. Easy as pie. Also, grow more kale. ;)