German Village Gazette

Go Green committee

Pocket gardens flourish in urban oasis

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Establishing German Village's first pocket garden wasn't without its challenges.

For starters, there was the trouble of finding a vacant plot of land in the urban oasis.

"We wanted the garden to reflect the awesomeness of German Village," said Jordanne Renner, chairwoman of the Go Green committee. "The only frustrating thing about it was getting the initial land."

In July, Rebecca Milnes allowed Go Green to use a 20-by-50-foot parcel in an alley behind 669 Grant Ave.

Milnes said the property is for sale, however, "As long as I own it, they're welcome to use it.

"I don't know how long that will be."

About 20 committee members each donated up $20 to buy essentials for the garden.

Local businesses, such as Hamilton-Parker and Ohio Mulch, also gave materials for the cause.

The next problem: finding a water source.

Renner said the committee's natural inclination was to use rain barrels that attach to downspouts.

Trouble was, there was no such infrastructure to support the plan.

Another generous neighbor, John Brownley, kicked in free H20.

"Water is not much to contribute," he said. "It's like contributing air."

He watched the property languish, only to be transformed into a source of pride by its volunteers and neighbors.

"It's beautiful -- beautiful and productive," he said.

Two short months later, the garden has roma tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, herbs, sweet potatoes, peppers, rhubarb and such.

The first harvest will be celebrated at a community dinner in the next month or so, using the bounty of the garden.

Next year, providing the land still is available, Renner hopes to install a compost bin, wooden planters and plant sunflower seeds to shield the chain-link fence along the south and west sides of the property.

Urban gardening might be rare in the village area but in a few instances, it is robust.

At Livingston United Methodist Church, farmers tend to 18 individual plots on the property.

Cultivators spend $30 a year to pay for water and some ancillary items and voluntarily give some of the yield to the church's food pantry.

"It's really going well," said Elspeth Willoughby, who has a plot at Livingston United.

"We have a good group. It's certainly a service to a lot of people in German Village who don't have a lot of backyard space."

Aetna Building Maintenance on Parsons Avenue launched a 20-bed garden that is available for free on a first-come, first-served basis, proving that participants donate 10 percent of their bounty to the nearby Ronald McDonald House.

Meanwhile, Renner has established Hands Across Parsons, in which she is getting Go Green members involved with the Kossuth Street Garden, which is east of German Village.

Renner said the group is looking at spaces in Schumacher Place and other nearby neighborhoods.

"The cool thing about Go Green is, even though were a subcommittee of the German Village Society, we aren't just German Village residents.

"We're urban dwellers who do green initiatives.

"I think that's one of the rad things about Go Green: We're not just strictly German Village."

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