September 2, 2014

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Avon Lake Community Council names garden project of the year

AVON LAKE — After just one year, the city’s Community Garden has been recognized as the 2012 Project of the Year by the Avon Lake Community Council.

Avon Lake’s community garden project has had an immediate impact, according to the city’s Community Council. This is a photo of a garden plot from last’s year’s inaugural effort.

“This is like, ‘Wow!’” Dale Cracas said.

“It’s humbling that people in the city recognize there was a lot of hard work that went into it.”

An Avon Lake school board member, Cracas and Bruce Peepers co-chaired a group dedicated to bring the organic garden from an idea to an abundance of produce grown not only for families and individuals, but for those in need.

The garden is about to begin its second growing season.

Gardeners began to be aware of the impact the fledgling project was making last year, Cracas said.

“People were coming up to us and said thanks for doing this,” Cracas said.

Community Council President Marty O’Donnell called the garden committee’s efforts in 2012 “monumental” and “exceptional.”

Terming the garden a “learning laboratory,” O’Donnell said the project will continue to be an asset to Avon Lake in the future.

This year 148 4-by-12-foot plots have been rented.

In preparation for the growing season, garden beds have been roto-tilled.

Some gardeners have already done some planting.

“Despite the cold weather and rain, some say it’s not too early, but I say it’s too early for me,” Cracas joked.

Still, early plantings should be OK.

“If things can make it in the next two weeks without a frost, they should be OK,” Cracas said.

Plots will again produce tomatoes, peppers, beans, radishes and other bush plants.

Some plots are being cultivated by Troy Intermediate School classes including a special ed class.

The half-acre community garden stands on ground donated by the school.

The city’s Community Resource Services, which works to help meet basic needs of poorer residents, will raise a variety of produce on four plots.

Many privately tended plots also will donate surplus produce to Community Resource Services.

The garden has drawn everyone from young moms pushing baby carriages along walking paths to tend to garden plots, to retirees and grandkids, many of whom have never experienced the joy of growing anything.

“Some have tried to grow veggies and the deer eat all of it,” Cracas said.

Eight-foot fences and other measures are designed to keep deer and other critters out of garden plots.

In hopes of keeping interest as fresh as the produce, the garden is considering putting in a few blueberry plants to generate cash from sales of the berries, Cracas said.

Any surplus funds the garden generates may also go to support community events such as fireworks and movies in the park.

“The community helped us build this garden and we’d like to do something in return,” Cracas said.

Nearly 100 volunteers helped build the garden area in 2012.

Lessons learned from the inaugural growing season last year have led to decisions to purchase organic sprays to reduce the number of beetles and other pests that feasted on watermelon and cantaloupe plants as well as cucumbers and squash.

The garden will be formally honored as Project of the Year at a dinner May 9 at the Avon Lake Public Library.

Tickets may be purchased by calling O’Donnell at (440) 933-7310.

Send your Avon and Avon Lake news to Steve Fogarty, 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.