By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester’s community gardens are a true collective effort from container construction to planting and harvesting.
Students, church members, businesses, and individuals are involved in the local garden to table effort.
Community gardens first appeared in the city on an empty plot of land behind the former Bolenbaugh’s Hardware store site and was administered by the city. In 2020, Canal Winchester Human Services took over the program.
“A group of men from Hopewell Church constructed the boxes for us,” said Human Services Executive Director Aletha Mullins. “They also constructed the eighth grade STEM bed. Pat Mariscal and Sheree Daily, along with their eighth grade class plant, harvest and manage their bed. In addition to the garden boxes, we also have three sitting gardens for residents to enjoy.”
According to Mullins, there are 20 garden beds—which go quickly—available each year for residents of Canal Winchester or a business located in the city. The process opened on March 18 and applications are posted on the Human Service website or filled out in person at 80 Covenant Way.
The garden boxes are four feet by eight feet and it is up to each gardener to decide what they want to plant. Previous plots contained vegetables, herbs and/or flowers. The growing season is done by October, weather dependent.
“CW Human Services provides everything needed for the gardening experience,” said Mullins, “including starter plants, seeds, soil and manure, tools, and watering cans. We have two rain barrels to collect water for the gardeners to use. All these items are made possible because of grant funding from Columbus Foundation – Urban Grant and CW Bed Tax. We have a tool shed which houses all of the tools and supplies for the beds.”
While the boxes are for personal use, Mullins said gardeners often donate their excess produce to the food pantry. The eighth grade STEM garden’s produce is specifically grown for the food pantry.
As produce is donated to the pantry, it is put out for clients. The pantry also receives produce from other local gardeners as well.
“There have been several church groups that help get the beds ready and often come and pull weeds in our sitting gardens,” said Mullins. “Gender Road Christian Church and C3 have been out every year to work on the beds for us. Other groups include CW 8th graders, scouts, and other resident volunteers. We have also had Walmart and TS Tech maintain a garden to donate the produce to our food pantry.”
Mullins said several groups helped ready the beds in the past for community use.
“We are blessed to have such an amazing outpour of assistance,” Mullins said. “The boxes were first constructed by men from Hopewell and each year we have new groups come and prep the beds, and get our sitting areas planted and weeded. Last year, Home Depot of Canal Winchester and Brice Road came out to install the pathway down the center of the garden beds. Each gardener is responsible for managing their bed and volunteer groups help us take care of the sitting garden areas.”
When asked why the community gardens are an endearing part of the quality of life in Canal Winchester, Mullins said they make a difference, such as during COVID when many of the gardeners enjoyed getting outside and taking in the fresh air.
“The beds offer enjoyment, friendships with fellow gardeners and it keeps some of them from being isolated,” said Mullins. “We often see residents in the sitting gardens reading a book, watching the gardeners, or enjoying the peace and quiet.”
For information, contact Canal Winchester Human Services at 614-834-4700 or online at cwhumanservices.org.