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Community gardeners relocate to Manklin
Accord reached to move gardens to Manklin Creek Road
By Dolores E. Pike

The community gardeners will be packing their shovels, rakes and hoes at the end of this year’s growing season as they prepare to move to their new garden site, Manklin Creek Road.  One gardener was even overheard vowing to take all of the soil he has so carefully nourished over the years along on the journey.

The Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Board of Directors in its June 15 meeting voted unanimously in favor of the motion presented by Chairman Dan Stachurski that the site of the community gardens be relocated to Manklin Creek Road.  The OPA will see to the move and the community gardeners will repay the cost to the OPA over a 20-year period at a yearly fee as yet to be determined.

The moving of the community gardens was necessitated by the OPA’s need for additional land to store and dry the material dredged from Pines’ canals as part of ongoing canal maintenance.

It was a swelteringly humid morning last week when The Courier met up with Richard Bost as he was watering his vegetable garden planted with tomatoes, lettuce, beets, squash, onions, beans and peppers in a raised bed garden.

“My brothers and I used to have to work summers on my uncle’s farm and we hated it,” said Bost noting that even though he works hard in his community garden plot, which is located behind the Ocean Pines south gate public utility building, he finds it relaxing.  A member of the community garden group for 10 years now, he was gathering some lettuce to take home to a neighbor.

And that is partly what draws the 70 members here yearly to plant their flowers and vegetables.  They enjoy sharing their crop with family and friends, just like they did when the first group began over 30 years ago.  At that time Boise Cascade used the site as a landfill.  After it was cleaned out the gardeners spent their own money as they enriched the soil to bring forth a bumper crop of vegetables, culminating in a harvest dinner held each fall in the community hall.

All of this brings back fond memories to Don Griswald, an original member of the group.  He recalled the early years when Howard Cathell would bring his horse over to plow the ground in the spring.  And when Charlie Waldron, a founding member now deceased, originated the idea of raised bed gardens, claiming it would be more productive.

In those days plastic pickle barrels dotted the garden area and the Ocean Pines fire company would periodically fill them with water for the gardeners to use.  Waldron, who was a great proponent of soil enrichment, suggested they put leached out chicken manure in the barrels along with the water, thus creating a nutrient for the plants.  As the summer progressed and the heat built up the barrels began to stink, ending the chicken-manure-nutrient-caper forever.

According to Community Gardens’ President Fred Henderson a lot of money has been spent by the gardeners to enrich the soil at the present site.  Soil samples from Manklin Creek Road have been analyzed and while showing no signs of any basic metals the samples indicate that the soil has no fertility.

“It (fertility) did not happen overnight and will probably take five years to bring the soil to where we are today,” said Henderson, who will get together with his team of gardeners, Ed Aurand, George Roche, Jim Wallace and Don Griswald, in order to set up, configure and assign plot spaces at Manklin Creek Road.  The team will work in conjunction with OPA landscaper, Ed Wells.

Currently the average wait for a garden plot, which consists of six, four by eight raised beds or one 20 by 20 open plot, is a year and there are 10 to 15 people on the list.  Half plots are available for people who do not want a lot of space.

A far cry from the plastic pickle barrels of water, there are now four hose hook-ups available for the gardeners to water their plots.  The hoses, along with other pieces of gardening equipment, are housed in a shed at the site for the use of all members.  Dues are assessed to the members to cover the cost of equipment and its repair.

Ocean Pines residents who are not gardeners might wonder at the need in the first place for a community garden.

“There is no room at my house and the plants do not seem to grow on the canal,” said Bost, who lives on Pintail Drive. 

Also working on his garden plot that morning was John Vecchiarelli.  He now lives on Windjammer Road but was used to growing those big, juicy Jersey tomatoes when he lived in New Jersey.  He said, “There is no place in your yard because you cannot take down the trees.”

When both men were asked their opinion about the move to a new site, Bost said, “You have to try to understand the needs, assign priorities and do what you got to do.”

And Vecchiarelli added simply, “I don’t mind as long as we get a spot.”

In the meantime everyone in the community gardens is betting, sub rosa, that Fred Henderson’s garden, as usual, will produce the season’s first tomatoes.


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Uploaded: 6/23/2005