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Housing Authority starts garden
Garden produced enough to share with residents without plots

It's approximately 1,400 square feet of produce on the eastern edge of Thomson, and it isn't the Farmer's Market.

The farmers don't fit the stereotype, either.

The Thomson Housing Authority Community Garden has carrots, eggplants, beets, tomatoes, squash, beans, peas, corn, cantaloupe, cucumbers, peppers, okra, turnip greens, thyme, onions, radishes, watermelon, broccoli, cabbage and pumpkins that were planted, cared for and are being harvested by its residents.

"It's fun and it's an experience. It gives the neighbors the opportunity to visit each other and exchange ideas and recipes," resident Linda Teague said. "We even share the produce with our neighbors who don't have a spot because we have an abundance. We've had fun with it."

Resident Tracy Reese has one recipe down pat. The rookie gardener said she was so excited about the opportunity to grow her own food, that she planted a variety of vegetables, but the squash produced the most.

"It's my first time ever, and it was quite an experience," Ms. Reese said. "I got a lot of harvest off the squash. But my kids love squash casserole, so it's been a good thing."

Her daughter, AppleLynn, 9, helped her plant and work the garden, and Housing Authority Executive Director Bob Flanders said that was one of the ideas behind it.

"It serves as a diversion and gives the residents the opportunity to grow their own garden, plus it teaches the kids," he said. "I grew up on the farm, so I learned early on the fun of growing one's own stuff."

The garden is located on an empty lot on Willow Street. Housing Authority Maintenance Supervisor Eddie Kendrick and a crew tilled the soil, installed an irrigation system and an eight-foot high fence with a locked gate.

"We did all the sweaty work," said Mr. Kendrick. He also helped plant some of the plot that belongs to the Housing Authority. There are eight plots, each 40 feet long. Some residents planted rows east to west, while others planted shorter rows north to south. Climbing beans are growing along the northern fence.

'I'm just an ol' country girl, so I just liked the hard work," resident Lena Ivey said.

This was the garden's first year and Mr. Flanders said he "deems it a success," though he hoped for more participation.

"But there's always initial skepticism about anything new," he said. "It wasn't overwhelming, but it was good participation... some were worried their vegetables would walk off. But we haven't had any walk off yet. In fact, they've had so much that they've been sharing with everyone they know."

And Ms. Reese hopes to harvest even more next year. She said she watched Diane Bracknell's garden and will follow her example and put lime and fertilizer out next year.

"I've been gardening year-round for about 50 years. It's just something I grew up with and now I've got my grandchildren involved," said Ms. Bracknell, who also has a garden behind her unit. "I think the community garden was a great idea and Mr. Flanders was gracious to agree to do it for us."

In early September, Mr. Flanders said they will retill the soil for fall planting. Ms. Bracknell can't wait.

"The greens will be better in the fall, because they are sweeter," she said. "Heat makes them bitter."

Web posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009

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