Community gardens flourishing in Kent County

Rick Mickowski, right, with First State Resource Development Council talks with Economic Development Director , James Waddington, center, and Mike Wasylkowski with Delaware State University Extension at the Dover Corner Garden in Dover on Thursday. (Delaware Sate News/Marc Clery)

Rick Mickowski, right, with First State Resource Development Council talks with Economic Development Director , James Waddington, center, and Mike Wasylkowski with Delaware State University Extension at the Dover Corner Garden in Dover on Thursday. (Delaware Sate News/Marc Clery)

DOVER –– More than 15 community gardens are flourishing in Kent County providing fresh, free produce to local residents as part of the Kent Community Garden Collaborative.

The initiative was originally proposed in December 2014 and a dozen gardens were planted in early 2015 with the help of the Kent County Economic Development.

“Anyone interested in starting a garden can come to us and we will provide assistance in getting their garden started,” said Economic Development Director Jim Waddington. “We can provide planning services and the first batches of seeds to get the garden off the ground.”

Mr. Waddington expects the initiative to grow even further in the future because several churches showed interest in community gardens in the spring, after it was too late to start growing.

Mr. Waddington hopes that Kent County can be a model for other areas to start their own community gardens and gave a tour to representatives from New Castle County and other surrounding areas Thursday.

“People outside of Kent County have started hearing about the program we have going and were interested in taking a look and hopefully they’ll start similar programs,” he said.

The way each garden is run varies greatly and is usually just whatever works for the area. The garden at Dover Air Force Base is maintained by base housing residents and is one of the largest and most successful in the county.

Towne Point Elementary School has a garden that is part of the class curriculum. The students are responsible for growing, maintaining and distributing the produce.

The garden at the Interfaith Mission for Housing is maintained by the shelter’s residents and used in their meals.

“It is a collaborative so the important thing is for everyone to put in some work,” Mr. Waddington said. “Growing a garden is more than just planting seeds and picking the produce –– it takes maintenance too so people should also pitch in by picking weeds or doing other maintenance.”

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen has been a big proponent of community gardens and has seen first hand how the community comes together.

“It’s amazing. I’ve been out with my family and I think it lets us and everyone really use some skills and talent they didn’t know they had to grow vegetables,” he said.

In recent weeks, maintaining the gardens has taken a little extra effort due to drier than usual conditions but in the spirit of togetherness, teamwork has proven valuable.

“The garden at the intersection of Kenton and College roads was having some problems with keeping their garden watered,” Mayor Christiansen. “But they’re right next to a fire company, so the fire company was able to pitch in and provide water and bringing the community together like this is what it’s all about.”

The easiest way to get involved in your local garden is to contact the garden manager who can be contacted by calling the Economic Development office at 678-3028. They can also provide information about gardening and recipe ideas for using the produce from the garden.

“We are looking forward to the program growing and more people getting involved and taking advantage of the resources we have right here,” the mayor said.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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