Some Berwyn Heights residents are planting seeds of healthy living and community engagement with the town’s first community garden, scheduled to open this spring.
Trinity Tomsic, a member of the Berwyn Heights Green Team that is creating and running the garden, said the idea was prompted by residents who indicated on a 2013 survey that they would like to have a communal garden.
“It became clear that the town really wanted a community garden,” she said. “It has just come together so quickly, and we’re thrilled with the support we’ve gotten.”
Tomsic said the garden will be phased in over the next two years, with phase one containing up to 25 plots available for registration in March and planting in April. Each plot will cost around $30, which will cover shared resources like water, compost and mulch, Tomsic said.
Residents can choose what to plant in their 8-by-4-foot plots, although they are encouraged to stay away from perennials and other aggressive plants, Tomsic said. A few of the plots will be reserved to grow donations for local food banks, she said.
Tomsic, who said she grew up on a farm, said there are many benefits to growing your own produce.
“Fresh produce can be expensive, but when you’re growing your own, especially from seeds, it’s cheap,” she said. “When you grow your own food it tastes so much better.”
Therese Forbes, a resident and Green Team member, said her son only likes peas from the family’s garden.
“They taste different from what you get at the store,” she said. “If you plant your own vegetables, you can save on that cost and pollution.”
Forbes spearheaded the creation of Berwyn Heights Elementary School’s garden, where students are able to grow and harvest vegetables that they prepare and eat at the end of each season. The space also contains a “Peace Garden” where students and staff can sit and enjoy the flowers, Forbes said.
“It’s just a really nice little sanctuary,” she said. “[Interest has] grown hugely in this past year. Initially there were just a couple people interested.”
The new community garden will be located in between Greenbelt Road and Seminole Street on 58th Street in Berwyn Heights, Tomsic said. The space presents a challenge because it is known as a popular area for deer, said resident Tim Lewis.
“That specific piece of property is essentially a deer highway,” he said.
Lewis, who volunteered to help with the garden, was tasked with researching and implementing ways to protect and maintain the garden such as overseeing the installation of an eight-foot fence around the garden perimeter. The city covered the cost of the fence.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job in terms of getting our research and getting prepared for everything,” he said. “I think we’ve overcome a lot of the challenges.”
Forbes said the garden will be a way to bring residents together and accomplish something individuals may not be able to do on their own.
“I think that’s the big step,” she said. “So many people think that they can’t do it, but when you have a community working together, it’s doable.”