Who knew that even a postage stamp-sized back yard could bring you closer to nature, being nicer to the environment and mindful of your own health?
Many locals could attest to this truth, especially now that the Massachusetts Outdoor Volunteer Experience (MOVE) and Somerville Climate Action (SCA) have teamed up to launch "community garden-raisings." The program entails teams of volunteers coming over to build and plant a raised garden bed over the course of one weekend afternoon.
The volunteers build the raised garden bed frame out of lumber, line it with landscaping fabric to keep weeds out, then fill it with soil, and then plant seedlings (young plants), as well as seeds.
"It's a great opportunity to get more connected to the sources of our food," said MOVE founder Dave Madan, who formed this organization last year for this very purpose. "Sometimes it takes a kick-start like this to start your own garden."
SCA has been spearheading this project, but it is now under the direction of MOVE. SCA works to educate and prevent the effects of global warming.
Residents are responsible for paying for the lumber, soil, and seeds, which usually comes to $150 to $180 for everything. People typically like to plant tomatoes, squash, lettuces, and herbs.
Madan sent out a couple emails to the MOVE email list and received so many replies that 60 interested residents were on a list, which was narrowed down to 10 recipients. To truly qualify, people must have at least a plot of land in the sunlight to make the garden work, Madan said. The project will run this month and the first three weekends in June.
What also makes the project fun is the range of people who offer to volunteer. Not only do they want to make the world better by allowing people to grow their own food, many don't know much about gardening and thought this would make for a great opportunity to learn, Madan said.
"People are talking about local food, and there is nothing more local than growing it in your own yard," said John Prance, a Somerville resident and volunteer.
Prance liked the experience of working on a team, and to see the process of nails and lumber result in a garden with plants growing in it.
"I really like that model of people pulling together, to work together and help each other out," Prance said. "I want to enable as many people as possible to garden. There's nothing like creating more possibilities."
Heather Tackle, an East Somerville resident, received a garden last year. Tackle, a former member of SCA, has been looking to become more "green" in any way possible. Requesting help with a garden was a logical progression, she said.
Tackle has a "postage stamp" yard, about 50-by-50 feet, which was a "disaster" when she bought her house four years ago. A sunny area in the corner was the perfect spot to try out vegetable gardening, she said.
MOVE volunteers told Tackle what supplies she needed to get, and Tackle also watched a gardening DVD. She asked her neighbors if they would appreciate having some fresh vegetables, and asked if they wanted to help grow the garden.
"For us, this project opened the door and made gardening a family activity," she said. "It was also great to engage our neighbors as we share growing produce. I have learned a lot about sustainability and broadened my knowledge of what food we put into our bodies."