By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor
As is said … “All good things must come to an end” … and so it was for the Shinnston Community Garden last week. Master Gardener Lee Reger, with aid from his wife Phyllis and the Shinnston Tornadoes 4-H Club, cleared the garden for the winter season.
Expended plants were removed and put onto the compost for fertilizer next year. Corn stalks from this year’s garden had been previously cut and dried and were put to good use adorning fence posts for autumn along with ribbons and scarecrows. The corn shucks served a dual purpose, also disguising the spent remains of what was a beautiful, productive summer garden.
Reger, who has fifty years of gardening experience, has overseen the Community Garden since its introduction three years ago, said the extreme summer heat affected garden production this year.
“We donated 700 pounds of produce to The Lord’s Pantry this year, which is down somewhat from the 800 pounds harvested in previous years,” he commented, “but it was very dry this summer. Normally, we might still be picking beans! I expect to get the last few tomatoes off the vines this week, and that will wrap it up for 2016.”
Reger said it was not unusual to have a great year for beans followed by a great year for tomatoes, so he is accustomed to the ups and downs from season to season in the gardening arena.
“I would like to thank the Shinnston Tornadoes 4-H Club for their great participation this year,” he added. “They planted a tended a four-square foot area this year. They were faithful and did a tremendous job – hopefully learning a lot in the process.
He continued, “I really enjoyed visits from the Jungle Junction kids who visited and helped out as well. They were attentive and asked before pulling weeds to ensure that they weren’t disturbing growing garden plants! They are at the age where they find it hard to believe that putting a tiny seed in the ground can grow an 8-foot sunflower! We hope their trips to the Community Garden were a learning experience they will remember for years to come.”
The Community Garden in Shinnston was begun to benefit The Lord’s Pantry, providing them with fresh produce to add to the aid they offer to area families in need. Some people, however, may misunderstand that.
Reger stated, “We had a lot of two-legged thievery this year. Neighbors who live nearby witnessed some folks filling grocery bags with our produce, and that may have hurt our numbers somewhat. We even erected signs, but some still evidently felt that ‘community garden’ meant that people in the community could just ‘help themselves’. We recognize that there will always be some pilfering; I just hope that those who took from the garden were truly in need – because that was the purpose of our garden.”
When asked if there are any other issues that will need to addressed next year, Reger quickly replied, “Yes, we need more help! I don’t know how much longer I can continue to do this without having a few other dedicated volunteers, but I’m willing to let it die because it has been so well received by The Lord’s Pantry. It would be wonderful if a few others would get involved because it is such a great service to our community.”
The Lord’s Pantry Executive Director Sandra Haggarty agreed, saying, “The people we serve truly do appreciate receiving fresh produce when it is in season. Fresh things are typically quite expensive to buy and would probably be something they would not purchase, but receiving it at the Pantry affords them the opportunity to freeze or can for later use. Many may not have garden space or know-how and they are so appreciative of what they receive. We try to give them a choice of what they’d like so that everyone gets something from the Community Garden. Our clients really look forward to that produce and ask us in advance if they will receive garden produce again. I hope it continues in the years to come because it means so much to us as we serve those in our area who are in need.”
In addition to the generous distribution of summer produce, no one can deny that the Shinnston Community Garden, which was once just an empty lot, give passersby something to take notice of as they drive down Pike Street. It is also evidence of the spirit of giving to others that may only be found in caring communities.