MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

February 25, 2013

Garden benefits go beyond food

By Doug Walton
Fresh at the Market

— As the days begin getting longer and spring quickly approaches, dreams of bountiful harvests occupy the imaginations of gardeners of all abilities. While gardening can be very fulfilling even as a solitary endeavor, it’s often a much richer and rewarding experience in the company of friends, family or neighbors.

And so the notion of a community garden, where growers of all walks and skills come together to grow food, flowers, herbs and other plants, is one that offers many benefits to everyone involved.

Certainly, being able to grow nutritious food for oneself, for family members or others in need is a major reason for gardening in any setting. But something about doing so while others nearby are striving to do the same with whatever mother nature offers, is part of what puts the “community” in community gardening.

Also, neighborhoods and places where people of all ages are outside together being active at all times of day, on weekdays and on weekends, tend to discourage less desirable activity that might take place otherwise.

In fact, research published in the Journal of Community Practice has found that community gardens can reduce crime and improve property values while beautifying neighborhoods and improving the general quality of life for gardeners and neighbors.

Community gardens come in many different shapes and sizes, but typically fall into one of two main categories — plots for individuals and families, or a shared area that people collectively maintain.

In Muskogee, we are very fortunate to have three different gardens in town where people can choose a plot for the season to call their own, for no charge other than the sweat equity required to tend it.

And thanks to funding through the Community Foundation of Muskogee, the Parks and Recreation Deparment has plans in the works for developing even more community gardens in town — with one coming to the Teen Center sponsored by the Youth Volunteer Corp, and a new wheelchair accessible garden on Chandler Road, sponsored by the Master Gardeners.

Here are the current community gardens in Muskogee and some sign-up information:

• The Martin Luther King Center on N. 3rd Street has 15 plots with some spaces available this year. Gardeners can sign-up at noon on March 9. Call the MLK Center at (918) 684-6314 for more info.

• Civitan Park has 26 plots and also has some spaces available this season. Gardeners can sign-up at noon on March 9. For more information, call the Civitan Club at (918) 616-1308.

• Spaulding Park has 36 plots and also has some spaces available this year. Call the Parks and Recreation office at (918) 684-6302 to reserve a spot.