A Garden Transformation

One year ago, much of Morningside Community Garden lay under black silage tarp. Pea gravel aisles were overgrown with weeds, and the soil from the growing spaces washed downhill every time it rained. Gardeners were asking for a fence to keep deer and groundhogs away from their fruits, vegetables, and flowers. A grant from the Sam and Marion Golden Helping Hand Foundation provided funding to remake the space, and LEAP’s new Community Gardens Manager Hannah Patrick stepped into the role just in time to tackle the project.

Today, this community garden – one of three managed by LEAP – is teeming with tomatoes, okra, gourds, and ground cherries, as well as cover crops planted to feed the soil during a time of transition.

The transformation is profound. This garden has grown from barren to bountiful in mere months.

"I've always had a passion for designing spaces that are both productive and beautiful,” says Hannah. “Studying permaculture and working as a farmer informed my vision for the layout of the space, but my role is only to provide the blank canvas. The gardeners this year have made Morningside more wonderful than I ever could have imagined. That is the beautiful thing about gardening communally – everyone's work and vision influence the outcome."

The work has required many hands. The hours of labor needed to remove gravel and replace it with mulch pathways wouldn’t have happened without a wide range of volunteers – from groups such as those from Home Depot and the Roanoke Women’s Rugby Football Club who visited for one-time work sessions, to the steady progress made by dedicated volunteers coming on repeated Wednesday nights. A fence encloses the garden now. Plots have been shifted to align with the natural contour of the slope, dug into a pattern of berms and swales to decrease water runoff.

There is still work to do. Raspberry bushes will be moved to the garden’s southern border and more perennial berries will be added to create a patch for communal picking. New, larger beds will be established to offer more growing spaces and more choices for community gardeners.

But the progress reveals what’s at the heart of community gardens – people, working together, to create beauty from the land.

Want to see the garden for yourself? LEAP is hosting a Discovery Walk in Morningside Community Garden during Carilion Clinic’s Fall Harvest Festival on Sept. 28, from 5:30-7:30 pm. Register here to attend.

Want to help in Morningside Community Garden? Every Wednesday, from 4:30-6:30 pm volunteers are invited to work in LEAP’s community gardens. The location changes each week. Email: gardens@leapforlocalfood.org for more information.

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