One unexpected delight of home-buying here is discovering gorgeous backyard gardens. The Westport Historical Society even sponsors a special “Hidden Gardens” tour (June 9th this year – mark your calendars as they always sell out).
But another type of garden is hidden in plain sight. Community gardens -- town-owned, group-run and wildly popular -- have sprouted all over Fairfield County.
Westport’s Community Garden is one of the largest. Located on Hyde Lane next to Long Lots School, it boasts more than 100 plots on an acre of land. Any Westport resident or town employee can grow vegetables, herbs and flowers there. They all share tools, tips (and bounty).
It’s a community effort involving more than gardeners. The town offers guidance and manpower. Local firms and farms donate machinery, soil and a picnic table. Westport’s pioneering Green Village Initiative helps too. The garden has “grown” to over 100 members.
A few miles north, Lachat Farm provides plots to any Weston resident, employee or local organization. It’s all organic -- chemical pesticides and herbicides are prohibited. Volunteers maintain several plots for the Weston Food Bank; other gardeners help by placing excess produce in a cooler, where it’s delivered to the Food Bank twice a week. Weston Community Garden also hosts workshops throughout the season, and an end-of-harvest potluck dinner (complete with campfire).
Fairfield takes it to a new level. A community garden in Drew Park has 46 raised beds for residents’ use, while four other gardens have been established solely to provide for those in need.
· Grace’s Garden at Our Savior Lutheran Church, managed by Eric Frisk, UCONN Master Gardener, supports the Operation Hope Food Pantry. Eric has partnered with Ability Beyond to provide opportunities for young people with disabilities to participate in gardening activities.
· St. Timothy’s Garden on the Hill, also managed by Eric Frisk, provides a quiet respite for those looking to tend to the vegetables, most of which are donated to the CT Food Bank.
· The School Giving Garden at St. Thomas Aquinas provides students with wonderful opportunities for service learning, with an array of programs that have benefited Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Operation Hope, and local veterans.
· Volunteers work the Operation Hope Garden, on the grounds of the First Church of Fairfield, solely to provide fresh produce for the onsite food pantry.
Since 1975, Allen’s Meadow has welcomed Wiltonites. Its 50 plots are lovingly tended by a diverse community: young parents, empty nesters, older couples, best friends, first-timers and experienced gardeners.
Norwalk’s Fodor Farm, the largest of all – offers 225 plots (8’ x 12’) to its residents for a mere $5. As you can imagine, plots are snatched quickly by many apartment and condo dwellers who grow and share their harvests within their communities. The Norwalk Health Department also host a Growing Gardens, Growing Health Program at the farm, offering gardening instruction, nutrition education, and cooking demonstrations to Norwalk families.
So, this spring — grow for yourself or grow for others, either way get some vitamin D and mood boosting benefits along the way!