JOHNSTON COMMUNITY GARDENS
St Paul Presbyterian and St James Lutheran community churches both have dedicated volunteers who grow and deliver vegetables and fruit to the Food Pantry during the spring, summer and fall months. This extra fresh produce is a hit with the families who rely on the pantry for nutritious food.
2020 was a hard year for Johnston’s community gardens. The heat and drought reduced yield and the Covid-19 pandemic reduced the number of volunteers who felt comfortable helping. Nevertheless, about 1100 pounds were produced by a core group of dedicated and faithful volunteers who brought their own tools and worked in different beds while staying safe working in the gardens.
In 2020 at the St James Lutheran garden, over 264 volunteer hours went into providing 630 pounds of food. Food donated including strawberries, rhubarb, onions, radishes, bok choy, bush beans, garlic (planted last October and harvested in July), tomatoes, squash, okra, sweet potatoes, sweet bell peppers, and a variety of spicy peppers including serrano, jalapeños, habaneros, and hot lemon peppers. According to Mary Dzubak, St. James Lutheran Church garden volunteer, this season's pepper plants were the most prolific, producing into October! The sweet potato crop totaled 114 pounds, which greatly surpassed last year’s harvest. In August, volunteers began bringing the sweet potato vines to the pantry instead of putting them in the compost pile. The vines are often used in soup and stir fry recipes, and are very popular in some cultures.
Val Nichols, St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church garden coordinator, indicates that 6 or 7 dedicated volunteers put in 500 or more hours to produce a 460 pounds of a variety of vegetables. Val indicates the vegetables are tailored to what the clients want. Okra is always a big hit. Although they grow all the usual vegetables, they also grow many herbs.
Val mentioned that the apartments which were built close to St Paul’s garden site have been a mixed blessing. The removal of trees and fields for the apartments reduced the number of bees and butterflies essential for gardens. The last couple of years the garden has grown pollinator plants which has improved the situation. Positive impacts of having the apartments close include the buildings blocking wind and increased security of having people near-by. The families, especially children, who live in the apartments are curious about the garden and communication “over the fence” is increasing.
Research shows community gardens provide numerous health benefits, including improved access to food and improved nutrition by those receiving the food. Garden volunteers experience increased physical activity and improved mental health. Johnston is very fortunate to have two community gardens!!
Vegetables from the St. James garden
St. Paul's Garden