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Dec. 16, 2010

Community garden plans blossom

by Claire Koenig, Print Managing Op/Ed Editor
Plans for a new Silver Spring community garden on Fenton Street are underway, with high hopes for an opening in April. The Montgomery County Parks (MCP) service has collected a soil sample from the potential garden space at 7904 Fenton Street to ensure that the soil is safe and fertile enough for plant growth.

Community Garden Coordinator Ursula Sabia-Sukinik hopes that an announcement for the opening of the garden will be made in January, but she must test soil samples from the plot first. She said that the tests can normally be finished in one to three weeks, but with staff shortages due to the holiday season, the results may take longer. "Its just a waiting game for that soil sample to come back," she said.

If the soil tests come back with positive results, MCP will collect applications for garden plots in February, and the garden will open in April. Sabia-Sukinik said that students and their families are encouraged to apply for plots. Residents will be able to use their personal plots to grow organic produce of their choice.

The park service anticipates student engagement in the development of the new garden. We are very interested in working with students," said Sabia-Sukinik. "We can help if an after school program wants a plot, or individual students could put Student Service Learning hours towards the garden."

This empty plot of land on the corner of Fenton and Philidelphia will house a future community garden. Andrew Kirwan
This empty plot of land on the corner of Fenton and Philidelphia will house a future community garden.
According to Sabia-Sukinik, Silver Spring residents had hoped that the land currently set aside for the community garden would be made into a new gateway garden, or park. But recent budget cuts by Montgomery County have shelved this plan at the moment. MCP decided that a community garden would be good alternative. "It will be five years or more until the funds are available to put in a gateway garden, but because that lot will be empty anyway, the garden can be there," Sabia-Sukinik said.

Even though Silver Spring residents have indicated that they prefer a park on the land, Sabia-Sukinik said that there is still plenty of community interest in the new plan. She said the garden will serve a community need and growing interest in home-grown produce, since many Silver Spring houses have gardens that are unsuitable for growing vegetables or have no gardens at all. According to Sabia-Sukinik, Americans have become increasingly passionate about growing their own food, which has created a new demand for community gardens. "There is a huge interest in healthy food right now - knowing where food comes from, that it's organic, that it's in season and safe to eat," she said.

If you would like to be involved in the new Fenton Street community garden, visit the Montgomery County Parks website at www.montgomeryparks.org for more information.



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