LARSON: Community garden grows more than vegetables

Susan Larson

Susan Larson

I think we all have memories of a neighbor who had a little vegetable garden and gave away his or her crops, maybe over the backyard fence or maybe at church. One of my favorite homegrown memories was when I took bulk mail to the Lilburn Post Office and Gayla Huff always had her freshly picked veggies in a box for her customers to enjoy. I was sad to see her retire, but I'm sure others are still enjoying the fruits of her labor.

But it seems lately that more people want to be part of the production. Community gardens are sprouting up all over the place like the one at Sugarloaf United Methodist Church. And then there are the little neighborhood gardens.

Early this year Geri Taran put an ad in the newsletter of her Steeplechase subdivision in Lawrenceville asking if anyone wanted to take part in what she calls her Turtle Woman Peace Garden. She received several replies.

"We don't have enough space," Martha Cormack said, "so the idea sounded good to me."

"Our yard doesn't have the ability to have a garden," Catherine Sakaris said. "I was happy to get involved."

Susan Gamble, an experienced gardener, also dug in. Paul Ankcorn volunteered to till the soil, but before he could do that, everyone had to pull together, literally, to remove yards of plastic that had been buried decades ago for weed control.

"One day we found a big pile of roly-polies," Sakaris' 7-year-old daughter Haley McCracken said.

"And when we pulled up the tarp, we saw worm tracks. It was fun finding worms and we figured it was good soil," Cormack's 9-year-old daughter Abby added. And to reap even more from what she sows, Abby, who belongs to Girl Scout Troop 1756, can apply her gardening experience toward a badge.

The girls helped the adults to plant seeds for several dozen crops including green beans, tomatoes, eggplant, pumpkins, strawberries, blueberries and a variety of herbs.

Everyone comes over when they can to help weed. Taran keeps it watered on a regular basis and hangs old CDs on the fence to scare away the birds.

I asked how the cooperative gardeners divvy up the crops.

"When things are ready to pick I send out an e-mail," Taran said. "If you come, you get to pick. If you don't come, you don't pick. It's pretty simple."

When visitors come, they can pet Taran's rescue turtles, Rover and One-Eye, who is, yes, missing an eye and part of a foot, yet seems to be very much at peace in the garden.

"It's been a great experience," Sakaris said. "If I hadn't answered her ad, I never would have met Geri. She's a very neat lady."

"Geri keeps telling us," Cormack said, "that we're growing more than vegetables. We're growing friendship."

And memories.

Susan Larson is a Lilburn resident. E-mail her at susanlarson4@yahoo.com.