GOD’S COMMUNITY GARDEN, originally known as the Methodist Community Gardens, has grown and given away 20 tons (40,000 lbs) of vegetables and herbs to our neighbors in need over the past ten years and provided programs that benefit all through education, mentoring and volunteering. There is no restriction as to religion, race or ethnicity. The garden also grows and distributes more than 200 vases of flowers per year, to all local nursing homes and shut-ins. We strive to provide a safe, beautiful and well equipped garden facility. The garden has been in existence since 1996 under the leadership of retired Bishop Dale White and in 2008 after working in the garden as a volunteer Linda Wood took over as coordinator.
We operate four Farm Stands on Aquidneck Island where we distribute fresh vegetables and herbs weekly for individuals, families and senior citizens who cannot afford to go to the store and pay for them. All our vegetables and herbs are given away. Our three greenhouses; one hoop house (14’X96’) and two High Tunnels (22’X96’) provide more than half of our production in the garden.
2018 Changes to the Garden
Our new plan is to stagger the cucumber plants. We have 88 plants, five different kinds, seventeen planted every three weeks. Each plant will be pruned to one stem, train it up and over the support then back to the ground. Also being heavy feeders we will top dress more compost while they are growing and fish emulsion liquid fertilizer through the irrigation system Cucumbers remain manageable for about six weeks so when they are harvest size we will pick them every day. After the harvest of the last cucumber we will pull out the crop (others are at different stages of growing) and replace with another crop for the Fall Harvest. Our calculation looks like we could have a very high yield. We always have enough vegetables to give away at the Farm Stands but if we are to increase our stands at other locations there is a need for more production. For the last three years we have averaged about 2,000 customers at the Farm Stands. Any produce that was left over from the Farm Stands and from the greenhouses in March and October goes to the closest Food Pantry. We have no idea how to estimate how many individuals take our vegetables there. Our estimate for 2018 is 7,000 lbs. 5,000 lbs in the greenhouses and hopefully should feed 3,000 customers.
We purchased new Farmstead Raised Garden Beds. They are easy to assemble and handcrafted of Vermont White Cedar which lasts many years and weathers to a soft grey. For taller raised beds, like our “T” bed we purchased more boxes and stack them so we need 16 garden boxes 4 boxes high and we increased the width from 3” to 4”. It takes less than five minutes to assemble. No tools are required. Simply slip the tenon through the mortise opening and secure with provided pegs. Lumber is custom sawed to a thickness of 1 ¼ for greater strength and longer life. Cedar slot and peg raised garden beds cannot pull apart. This cedar is not sanded or treated, giving it an unfinished rustic quality. The pegs are made of black locust wood, which is very rot resistant.
The community garden is beginning a new program called Straw Bale Gardening which we believe will increase our production in our squash/cucumber gardens outside. We are using 67 straw bales which will be placed on weed block not on the garden soil. All the walkways are covered as well. No weeds, no bugs. Squash and cucumbers will hang on trellis’ and lean-to structures made by cattle panels and t-Posts. Squash being off the ground cannot be eaten by bugs, lost in the vines and will have more production plus a beautifully maintained garden. Conditioning the straw bales takes 10 -12 days to complete. The chief ingredient to get the bales cooking is fertilizer with the most nitrogen (46-0-0) and water. On May 21st the squash/cucumber plants started from seed will be planted in the top of the straw bales 3-4 plants per bale. Our plan is for straw bales to be covered with zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, pole beans and Malabar spinach and all sorts of companion crops and flowers in between. This program will be a great learning tool for all who volunteer at the garden since not many if any have used this method on the island. We are very excited about this project and are planning an open house in July for touring.
The activities in the garden are endless. There is so much we can teach our children how to grow vegetables, flowers and herbs, how healthy it is to eat what you grow and how to give to others less fortunate than us.All these programs, projects and operations need funds. We have demonstrated that we have a great track record in the last ten years by accomplishing all our objectives. Our proposed outcomes are to have more volunteers, more vegetables and more customers at our Farm Stands.
Our flowers are getting more professional looking every year. They are all grown from seed. Everyone loves to make flower arrangements and we love giving them away.
God’s Community Garden, we believe, is run by faith. This amazing garden is “GOD’S WORK OUR HANDS” It is filled with so much love and dedication and it just keeps on GIVING. We are blessed with donations and grants.
Our plans just evolve. If we need something done, volunteers, students, school groups are here whenever we ask. Funding is always provided and the production just keeps on growing. When we need more, the opportunities arise. Then become a reality. We are always trying to find new ideas to make our garden special.
Most grants are given to the garden for specific projects not for operational use. Since God’s Community Garden is operating year round it becomes harder for us to receive these funds that we are dependent on. We have no operating capital for our everyday programs, repairs, improvements or expansions unless we write in for a grant or ask for donations which is not always the right time to do so. We are running our garden from hand to mouth so to speak. Everything we produce is given away so we have no return of our investment for another year. Our garden is operated only with the funds that we receive. Although it is always a challenge it is not as important as the people we serve. We will keep the faith and everything will be done.
FOR INFORMATION ON HOW YOU CAN DONATE TO GOD’S COMMUNITY GARDEN, PLEASE CONTACT THE PUMC CHURCH OFFICE AT 401-683-4005. YOU MAY ALSO FIND MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE GARDEN AT http://www.godscommunitygarden.com/ AND ON FACEBOOK AT http://www.godscommunitygardenri.com/