New Barrington garden grows community spirit
A blur of traffic motors south on Route 114, traveling at speeds that turn lettuce plants and tomato vines and squash plants into a smudge of green against an already green backdrop.
If motorists were to slow a bit and pull to the side of the road, just after the “Welcome to Barrington” sign, and then climb out of their cars and walk a few hundred feet to the west, they would see plot after plot filled with handsome vegetable plants. Heads of leafy lettuce plants and kale and lush tomato plants and green beans and onions and sunflowers and even purple peppers cover dozens of garden beds there.
The group of 58 plots — some are filled with plants while others are yet to be cleared — combine to form the Barrington Community Garden. The project is the first of its kind in town, a public garden that is available only to Barrington residents.
For about $25, a resident can lease an 80 square-foot plot and fill it with whatever they would like. Many of the plots boast tomatoes, squash, beans, lettuce and peppers. Some of the plots are speckled with flowers — big healthy-looking sunflowers.
Kate Weymouth, a member of the town council and a driving force behind the garden, has potato plants in her plot and has seeded a few raspberry plants along the edge of the garden property. She has been involved in the project since it was first dreamed up years ago by Bonnie Grassie-Hughes.
A few years back, Ms. Grassie-Hughes’ husband had wanted to lease a plot in the public gardens at Walker Farm. That garden spread is open to all people and there was very little turnover from one year to the next. He waited and waited for a plot to open up, but it never did.
Ms. Grassie-Hughes had mentioned the situation to others in town, including Ms. Weymouth, whose son Stuart, then a college senior, was searching for a community project as part of a classroom assignment. He picked up the project and helped build a plan for the garden. Since then dozens of other residents have become involved, helping in a variety of ways.
“It’s been a lot of work,” said Cyndee Fuller, a member of the garden’s executive committee and a longtime member of the town’s conservation commission.
After volunteers received approval for the project (which took years of work in itself), they began mapping out the garden and building a grid of plots. The battle against weeds is ongoing — volunteers layer pieces of cardboard onto the ground surrounding the plots and cover the cardboard with wood chips. Pulling up weeds inside the plots is left to the individual gardeners.
Ms. Grassie-Hughes is a diligent weed-puller. During a recent visit to the community garden she cleared weeds from her own plot and could not help but rip out the persistent climbers that sprouted up through the wood chips. She said she has enjoyed planting her garden and watching the vegetables grow. She has also enjoyed the community aspect of the new garden.
“It’s been great meeting other people,” she said, adding that there is a plan to build a central communal plot where people could share in the harvesting of herb plants.
Ms. Weymouth said she would also like to build a shed at the community garden.
“We need something to keep our tools in and wheelbarrows, so people don’t have to bring them over every time they stop by,” she said.
Ms. Fuller said she has brought some simple tools to the garden and keeps them near the plots; they have not “wandered off” yet.
Bob Vitullo lives a stone’s throw from the community garden. His family had owned the property upon which the garden is sited, but sold it to the town a few years back.
Community garden officials and Mr. Vitullo have struck a deal where the longtime resident is allowed to farm some of the land surrounding the garden. He also sells some of his harvest from the back of a tractor wagon which he parks along Route 114.
Ms. Fuller said Mr. Vitullo recently stopped by the community garden holding a large plastic tray filled with small basil plants. They were left over from his own garden and he donated them to the community plots. The gesture resonated with the volunteers who have helped establish the young project.
“This garden has been great,” she said. “I think people are happy with it. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been good.”
Volunteers were not sure how residents would respond to the community garden. They thought they would be fortunate to have 10 residents apply for a garden plot, but were pleasantly surprised when almost 20 people registered for a plot the first day the garden spaces became available. Now, almost 30 plots have been leased for the season.
Cardboard wanted for garden
Volunteers are always looking for pieces of heavy-gauge cardboard to line the walking paths at the community garden. The cardboard is placed between the plots and then covered with wood chips. Anyone who has cardboard they would like to donate is welcome to do so — just drop off the cardboard in the designated space at the garden.
Want to lease a garden plot?
A lease agreement is available online at www.barringtoncommunitygarden.org