Thursday, June 19, 2008

Garden Patrol: Crystal Lake Community Gardens

Behind Barlina House on Barlina Road is a gardener’s paradise. The Crystal Lake Park District rents garden allotments to anyone interested in gardening. Currently 63 plots have been rented. The day I was there I met Russ and Millie, who were checking on their plot after the heavy rains we’ve had. Their plot was on high ground but several others weren’t.

Russ and Millie have lived in Crystal Lake twice, with a seven year stint in North Carolina, and have always been avid gardeners. They have lived here this time since 1978. This is the second year they have rented a plot from the park district and this year they rented two. They are thinking of getting a third next year. Millie enjoys meeting the other gardeners, saying, "They are such friendly people." Several times last year the gardeners got together for a pot luck dinner at the picnic tables nearby the gardens.

This year they have planted tomatoes, peppers, corn, peas and beans, as well as flowers. They love to eat the vegetables that the garden produces. They have tried different tomatoes but their favorite is the Big Boy. It is big and reliable, and nematode resistant, Millie told me. They try not to use too many chemicals on their crops but when bugs start to eat the garden you have no choice but to, they say. They do mulch between rows to keep down the weeds and retain moisture. This is important since water must be hauled from a spigot a couple hundred feet away. A friend gave them some plastic tubs, which they fill with water and keep by their garden.

They, along with some of the other gardeners, donate the extra vegetables they grow to the Crystal Lake Food Pantry. One of the allotment holders has one whole plot devoted to growing food for the food pantry. If you have an interest in gardening but don’t have enough space at home, the rental fee for a plot is $24/resident, $18/senior citizens and $30/non-resident. It’s a great community of gardeners who are friendly and love to share their love of gardening. Contact the Crystal Lake Park District for more information.

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