Michelle Teheux: Time has come for community gardens -- again

Michelle Teheux

I have a fantastic idea whose time, I think, has come again.

Why not start some community gardens?

The sky-high price of fresh produce makes this idea especially timely. So do all the recalls on contaminated tomatoes, spinach and other veggies.

If you grow a tomato yourself, controlling all the growing conditions, you can eat that tomato without worrying what’s been done to it.

And, of course, home-grown always tastes better.

The problem, however, is that not everybody has space for a garden. Apartment dwellers are limited to perhaps a patio pot or two on the balcony.

In my case, most of my yard is too shady to grow vegetables, leaving me with one little strip between the driveway and fence to cram in a few tomatoes and herbs.

Years ago my grandparents had a garden plot provided by their church. Out of a huge tilled plot, gardeners had their own little areas marked off in which they could grow whatever they wanted. It must have been a great way to get to know the neighbors.

In addition, a lot of us today no longer know much about gardening, and having a big community plot would allow the more experienced people to offer tips to the newbies.

People with an overload of zucchinis could trade their extras to their neighbors in return for some of their excess tomatoes.

Right now either my mouth is watering at the thought of both. Too bad for me I don’t have the room for everything I’d like to grow.

Take a drive and you'll see many empty lots and fields that might make suitable community gardens. Churches, businesses, even private owners with extra unused space could donate or rent out single-family garden plots.

While taking a train trip from southern to northern Holland earlier this month I was intrigued to see, on the outskirts of nearly every town we whisked by, patchwork gardens grown by dozens of people.

Some of the plots had small greenhouses. Most of them contained neat garden sheds that were almost cabins, complete with water and electricity.

According to my Dutch husband, spending a day out in the country to work their gardens serves as a sort of mini-vacation for many people.

Luckily for us, we shouldn’t need to leave town to find affordable garden space because open space here is not nearly as pricey or scarce. We are blessed with much more open space to choose from.

All we have to do is decide to grow less grass and more vegetables, and perhaps make some extra space available to others.

I’m told that during World War II it was seen as one’s patriotic duty to plant a Victory Garden.

It might not be a matter of patriotism right now, but it’s still a good idea.

Michelle Teheux can be reached at (309) 346-1111, ext. 661, or at mteheux@pekintimes.com.