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Community Garden Flourishing at Community Center


Young man watering the garden

Have you been out to see the beautiful Community Garden at the Clayton Community Center lately?

If not, you're missing basketfuls of fresh grown tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, corn, yellow squash, zucchini and peas. And you're also missing the satisfaction that only gardening can give, as well as a good time, if you're not one of the many volunteers who spend a few minutes each week helping it thrive.

"There's not many projects that you can get all age groups involved with, but this is one," said Parks & Recreation Director Larry Bailey. "There's always something to do our here."

The garden, though only in its first full year, is providing lots of fresh produce for a local food bank.

"I like seeing how glad people are to get fresh vegetables," said Volunteer Duke Dyer, a student at the School of Science and Math in nearby Durham. 

Dyer, 17, is one of the garden's regular volunteers. On a recent day, he was out tending the garden, watering and harvesting some of the vegetables.

"It's definitely fun," he said. "I knew nothing about gardening when I started, but I wanted to help out. It's been fun learning new things."

Bailey said the garden has generated interest from some diverse groups. Volunteers include students from local schools, the Boy & Girl Scouts, some local church Sunday School classes, Americorps participants, senior groups, youth groups, churches, the Master Gardeners, students from various Community Center activities and members of the Center's three 8-week gardening classes.

"They do whatever needs doing," Bailey said. 

The gardening classes, which cover everything from site selection and soil preparation to planting and harvesting, have used the garden "as a teaching tool," Bailey said. "A class is different when you can actually get your hands in the dirt."

The garden recently got a bit of an upgrade with a new fence and picnic tables built by local student Robbie Brown as part of an Eagle Scout project. Volunteers also plan to ring the garden with flowers--the kind that repel bugs.

"It's going to be attractive once we work out all the details," Bailey said. "And remember, it's still in its infant stages. This just our first full growing season."

He said a greenhouse is next on the wish list.

Garden"Nourishing North Carolina" grants have provided a storage building, supplies and gardening tools. The grants, made possible through a partnership of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC and the NC Recreation and Park Association, is a big help to the process, Bailey said. Blue Cross hopes the grants will help guide residents toward healthier eating and living habits.

Even with all the help, the Garden still needs more volunteers, Bailey said. Anyone interested in helping--even for just a short time each week--is encouraged to contact the Department at 919-553-1550.

The garden got its start last year, helped out by raised beds and compost bins that were part of two Eagle Scout projects of Ryan Kronz of Troop 24 and P.J. Gilmartin of Troop 726. They had help from fellow scouts Chris Gilmartin, Jack Cawthorn, William Ball, Shaun Glass and Steven Zinn. They were joined in the work by Jessica Kronz and Emily Sanders of the Archer Lodge Middle School Beta Club.

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