The Lewes Community Garden held its fall work day Nov. 7.
With unseasonably warm weather, many of the volunteers donned T-shirts as they went about the end-of-season tasks of mulching, composting, raking and breaking down garden beds for the season.
Abiding by state COVID-19 guidelines, gardeners wore masks on the day but occasionally lifted them to sip water and apple juice and enjoy some of the fruits of their season’s labor: Homemade pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread and pumpkin balls all had been made using pumpkins grown in the community garden.
“It’s really enjoyable to grow your own organic fruits and vegetables, and even more special to have those fresh ingredients and authentic flavors in the dishes and desserts you make and share with family, friends and the community,” said Gail Seligson, community gardener and pumpkin bread baker.
This time of year, the theme of a cornucopia and preparing meals to share with family, friends and neighbors comes to mind.
Perrin Smith, garden chair, notes that the community garden donated more than 600 pounds of produce to the hungry and those in need through local nonprofit organizations like the Community Resource Center’s food rescue mission in Rehoboth Beach. That number is up from about 100 pounds of produce donated last year.
“With so many local families struggling to make ends meet this year, we wanted to do our part to help. Everyone pitched in. We made donations from April into November,” said Smith. “In addition to the fresh vegetables, we donated about 90 bags of nonperishable foods.”
In its second growing season since breaking ground in 2019, volunteers have helped build beds, tend community plots, and harvest fruits and vegetables for those donations.
Smith said teaching and learning about organic practices is also at the heart of the garden. “Despite the pandemic, we’ve had a great growing season, and we learned a lot from each other,” he said.
The 42 gardeners embody an eclectic mix from all levels of experience, ages and abilities – from novices to master gardeners. Several families have introduced their children to the concept and excitement of planting seeds, tending the garden and watching the plants grow.
First-year gardener Eileen Baker said the experience that thrilled her the most this year was seeing her kids eat salad knowing where its ingredients were grown.
The garden doubled in size this year from 10 4-by-16-foot beds last year to 20 beds this spring.
Though organizers initially were concerned that the pandemic might inhibit people from joining and participating, all the garden plots were taken. And while plans to build more beds were altered earlier in the season, a new build day in November resulted in the addition of four new beds.
Dogfish Head Brewery’s early support enabled the garden to break ground in 2019. Assistance from many, including Gallo Gives and Mr. P’s, enabled the garden plan for the expansion that took place this year. Grizzly’s Landscaping donated organic compost and soil to fill new garden beds and bring in new gardeners this year.
Next, garden organizers hope to provide free organic gardening workshops for the public. They hope to create several educational demonstration gardens, with native plants and trees that can be used for home landscaping highlighted in one, and another serving as habitat to attract pollinators.
As many as 12 4-by-8-foot beds may available to new gardeners in spring. A lottery will be held in early spring to allocate the available plots.
To sponsor a bed for a low-income family or to make a donation, mail a check to Lewes Community Gardeners Fund, P.O. Box 436, Lewes, DE 19958. Greater Lewes-area residents also can apply for individual plots. For more information, go to lewescommunitygarden.org.