Monday, April 9, 2012

The Coolest Place In Columbia You Haven't Seen If You Like Local, Local Food & Tiny, Tiny Farms

Awesome gardens -- even before spring truly arrives
There is a garden in the center of the 'burbs that is the coolest place that I have stumbled on in Columbia.

If you drive from I-95 past the Target on Rte 175, look to the right at the open space near the high tension power lines.  You'll see gardens.  I had glimpsed them for years, and I finally hunted them down with the help of Google maps.

Right across from Long Reach High School is the entrance to a community garden where people grow vegetables all year round.

If you like gardens, the plots are worth looking.  Dozens of plots.  All fenced.  Some beautifully filled with black, dark soil in foot-high rows.  This is a place where people grow some awesome food.

I walked one afternoon in late February, and I was amazed at just the dirt and winter onions.  By now, the farmers are digging in for spring.  I loved the look of the place.  Each rectangle is someone's individual dream, their way of planting, their choice of vegetables, their level of order or chaos.  I assume it's a blast on a summer Saturday when all the gardeners arrive.

It turns out that Howard County has at least four community gardens, one in Woodstock and three in Columbia.  Check out the community garden Web site for information about how to get on the waiting list.

Or just go for a walk.  Remember you're a guest.  You can't actually enter a plot.  You certainly can't harvest anything.  But it's an inspiration for anyone who has a little patch on their own.  Check out how experienced people make the most of their tiny farm.

If you visit, check out the compost heap.  I can recommend how to start a little compost heap.  But this looks like a professional arrangement.  I'd love to hear from anyone who gardens at one of the community spaces.  What's the vibe?  Who keeps the place in order?


Elizabeth @ The Bare Midriff said...

My husband and I had a plot at one of the Columbia community gardens a couple years ago. We LOVED it, except for one thing - we were growing our food organically, and the guy in the next plot over was using all sorts of chemicals on his crops, which of course blew over to our crops on the wind and leached into our soil.

Community gardens are definitely a great option for people that aren't as Type A about chemical use as we are!

Matt B said...

I had one as a child and just made it through the waiting list for one of the Long Reach plots this year. I am very excited

Matt B said...

@ Elizabeth.

The long reach gardens now has a separate organic section fenced off away from the others where no chemicals are allowed.

Anonymous said...

My BF and I are entering our third season at the Long Reach location of Columbia Gardeners. It is great to be part of this community. I had lucked out and inquired about a plot right after they expanded under the BGE lines. Two of the three areas in Columbia expanded with organic gardens in 2010. Ursula and Cleve manage the Long Reach site and are also a wealth of knowledge for new garderners. Although everyone is responsible for their own plot, we have to work together to keep the area kept up and will also help each other out during vacation or other long absences.

My favorite crop is garlic which is planted in the fall for a mid summer harvest. However, all the veggies we grow and picked fresh right before eating taste like nothng you can buy in stores.

For anyone deciding to take up gardening this year, my only advice is to start off small. It is a lot of work to maintain a plot and will take more time than you think. With that said, we are very excited for the season ahead.

AnnieRie said...

The gardens on Dobbin were the first ones I ever saw in Columbia. Used to love walking down there and watching everyone enjoy themselves gardening.

The ones in Woodstock are on the Conservancy grounds. They are IPM or organic.

I walk through them all the time, talking to the gardeners and learning from them.

Thankfully, I can garden in my yard, but the community gardens are such a great idea to give those without the space, the ability to grow their own food and flowers.

Anonymous said...

You can see more about the Long Reach community gardens on MPT's Outdoors Marlyand on April 24th

JaneƩ Pelletier said...

Great blog! I'm a second year gardener at the Westside Garden, off Freetown Road. Columbia Gardeners, Inc. is totally volunteer managed, and each of us has to perform four hours of community service each year to keep our plot (along with a very small fee and agreeing to abide by the general rules of the place). My fellow gardeners are extremely friendly, always asking how things are growing and offering advice. There are people from all walks of life: those who are growing their own food for financial reasons, health reasons, or just to get outdoors. It's a cordial little micro-community right here in Columbia. Thanks or the shoutout!