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Growing community gardens

It’s far from a new idea, but it is one that is enjoying a bit of a resurgence.

Community gardens – those that offer up plots for residents to rent out and grow vegetables, fruit or flowers – are themselves growing in popularity.

For those living in apartments or homes that don’t provide enough outdoor space for putting in a small garden, there are many groups and organizations around the 209 that are working to fill that need.

One of them is the Oakdale Garden Club, which has a number of planter boxes and beds available, putting them in during the past year and now having several of them rented out.

From tomatoes – and lots of them – to succulents, sweet corn to strawberries, residents can work on their gardening skills and share their love of the hobby with like-minded people.

Gary Jones is an active member of the Oakdale Garden Club; he and fellow member Rachel Bond are co-chairs of the committee overseeing the Oakdale Community Garden. Jones said he is pleased by the response the organization’s garden-plot-for-rent program has received.

“We rent from March 1 to March 1 and we only have two empty in ground spots,” he said of the garden space nearly selling out this first year.

You can actually rent space at any time, as long as it is available, and the cost is $60 per year, with senior citizens age 65 and over getting a substantial price break, paying just $20 per year.

There are 20 large in ground beds along with nine boxes; the boxes come in two sizes, are raised to allow easier access for seniors but can also be used by anyone wishing to rent them out.

“One of the boxes and one of the in-ground beds, a local Girl Scout troop has,” Jones said of appealing to a wide audience for the garden effort. “What’s nice is we have some families in there, some single people, some seniors … and people are talking, comparing what they’re growing.”

In that regard, he said, it truly is a ‘community’ garden, as it is bringing residents of the community together for some outdoor time, exercise through gardening, and reaping rewards for the work done.

“Eventually we’d like to do some classes and they would be open to everybody,” Jones added of future plans for the Oakdale Garden Club at its community garden site. “We also planted an orchard; we have some nectarines, peaches and pears, apples, apricots, a cherry tree … we put 12 trees in and they’re looking good.”

No fruit is anticipated until next year, but the trees are planted at the north end of the Community Garden which is off East A Street in Oakdale, close to the Oak Haven Senior Apartment complex and the Gladys L. Lemmons Senior Community Center.

“Most of the boxes are rented by seniors and I think all but one come from the senior apartments here,” Jones said, noting the proximity of the garden to the apartment complex.

A garden shed on the property provides ample room for storage of garden tools and it was constructed by Riverbank High School students as part of a class.

Jones said the shed is a perfect storage area and said the club was very appreciative of the craftsmanship and dedication of the students in putting it together.

Gardeners have access to their garden plots seven days a week; the garden gate is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Another goal of the club is to add more faucets in the near future, so there is one faucet available for each two garden plots, helping cut down on the need for carrying water to sites or using hoses to reach them.

“We have a ‘share box’ and people have put stuff in there,” Jones said, with gardeners spreading the bounty, putting vegetables they won’t utilize into the share box.

Some of the extra produce, he added, will also be passed along to Oakdale Community Food Sharing, which helps provide food to those in the need in the community.

Jones said that many of the garden beds and boxes have been personalized by those that have rented them, one with a sign indicating it is the ‘Miller Family Garden’ while the plot rented by the Girls Scout has brightly colored decorative rocks interspersed among the plants. Another garden bed is being used to grow succulents … there are many ways to make it uniquely your own.

And that, Jones said, seems to be part of the appeal.

The backdrop wall of the garden was brightly painted with a colorful mural during the Love Oakdale community work day at the end of April this past spring and Jones said it really has helped to make the garden a bright and inviting place.

The club is definitely interested in getting more beds and boxes put in; they also will be adding a rose garden area and a pollinator garden, where they will feature some native plants in the hopes of attracting butterflies and bees.

“This is our first year but some of these have really taken off,” Jones said, surveying the wide variety of garden spaces. “Some of the people are still learning but it’s nice to see everyone enjoying it.”

For more information, visit the Garden website at