MARIETTA - Local community gardens are already flourishing and providing fresh vegetables for gardeners as well as families in need through area food pantries. And there is still some space available for folks interested in growing their own food.
"We have one or two raised beds available at the Hart Street community garden in Marietta, and there is only one person currently using our Belpre garden at the new location on corner of Third and Maple streets," said Karen Kumpf, executive director of Washington County Harvest of Hope that coordinates the area's community garden projects.
She said St. Mark's United Methodist Church, located across the street from the Belpre garden, is helping with some planting at that location.
"Our Harmar garden (on Gilman Avenue in Marietta's Harmar district) is still sitting empty for now," Kumpf added. "We treated that area to get rid of the Bermuda grass that had taken over in that area, but it will probably grow back, so we've decided to do all raised-bed gardening there and we're currently waiting to have the raised beds installed later this season."
The raised beds are basically "table-top" gardens that can be easily worked by people who may not be able to stoop and bend in order to work a traditional ground-level garden.
Temperatures were pushing into the high 80s Saturday as Denise Singer, 55, of Marietta used a rake to loosen the soil between the plants in her section of the community garden at the corner of Hart and Sixth streets in Marietta.
"This is my second year planting in the community garden for our own benefit and to give to the local food pantry-they come by once or twice a week to pick up fresh vegetables donated by the gardeners," she said.
Singer's plot included green beans, tomatoes, lettuce, corn and cucumbers.
"We've had to water everything recently because the weather has been pretty dry," she said. "But it looks like everyone's plots are doing well."
Fellow gardener Ken Sandstrom, 80, of Marietta agreed.
"It's been a great growing season so far with a gradual warm-up this spring," he said. "That's really good for the garden."
Sandstrom has planted in the community garden for the past four years.
"I mainly just do it for fun," he said. "I really enjoy getting my hands into the soil. I just plant it, but God grows it."
Sandstrom also enjoys sharing his harvest-which includes carrots, beets, eggplant, onions, cabbage, peppers, broccoli, two kinds of lettuce, and collard greens.
"That's what it's all about-sharing with others," he said. "If everyone growing a garden would just share a little of their crop, people would have plenty of food."
Community gardens allow citizens with limited land and/or resources to grow their own produce. New Matamoras, Belpre and Marietta are home to at least four gardens that serve nearly 100 families, according to the Washington County Health Department's web site.
The gardens also serve as gleaning projects, with portions of the harvests donated to local food pantries to serve the county's most at-risk residents.