Urban gardeners in Frederick need new space

Renee Bourassa, president of the Frederick Community Garden Association, tends the association\'s garden recently behind 35 E. South St. in Frederick. The garden has 18 plots, but the association will lose use of the land and is looking for a larger site. (Frederick News-Post/Sam Yu)

A community garden in the heart of downtown Frederick has been a dream come true for about 40 people who had grown produce on 18 plots for their families over three years.

Now, the Frederick Community Garden Association has hit a snag. The owner of the property was generous to let the association use the site for the past few years, association president Renee Bourassa said, but “he’s decided to go in another direction with the property, and that is completely understandable.”

The gardeners are looking on the sunny side.

The good news is that the association has grown considerably thanks to its dedicated members, and in many ways, has outgrown the location near 35 E. South St. behind the Black Hog restaurant, Bourassa said.–

“This is a golden opportunity to move to a larger location, preferably with more sun and less mosquitoes,” Bourassa said, “and if anyone has any specific ideas, we would be very excited to hear them.

“All we need is a large piece of land in downtown Frederick — grass, dirt or even concrete — a supportive property owner, and we will make everything else work around that,” Bourassa said.

Bourassa said she is optimistic about finding a new location. The gardeners have three sites in mind — each with its pros and cons, Bourassa said, but nothing is etched in stone.

“As long as a space has enough room and sun, we’re able to work around any other obstacle,” Bourassa said. “We can add raised beds to concrete, figure out access to water, build a fence — whatever needs to be done to make a functioning garden we can do. We just need the space to do it.”

Karen Buchsbaum and Eli Roth are credited with being the original champions of the garden, started in 2009 by a small group of residents who wanted to plant and grow vegetables downtown and come together as a community.

Roth said he has successfully grown squash, tomatoes, kale, corn, eggplant, beans, lettuce, collards, carrots, potatoes, peppers and more, and the association’s members have also planted apple trees.

But a challenge for the gardeners has been weeds and groundhogs, which required bringing a trapper every year before the growing season to trap them before they have a chance to mate for the season, Roth said.

“Since we never use harmful chemicals in the garden, we have to be creative about weed control and diligently weed our plots and lay down straw to prevent weeds from getting too much sunlight,” Roth said.

Except for tomato plants her parents planted when she was young, the garden is Heather Montgomery’s first earth-tilling experience, and since joining the association, she has discovered that many of her friends and neighbors have garden plots in their own yard or elsewhere, she said.

The enjoyment she gets from eating fresh vegetables far outweigh any challenges that come with gardening, Montgomery said, adding that the garden club has knowledgeable, friendly members who are very generous and helpful to newcomers.

On average, food travels 1,700 miles, Bourassa said, and that accounts for a lot of greenhouse gases and waste in transportation, packaging and storage. A small garden can reduce carbon footprint.

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