Dig it

Turn your thumb green with MetroParks’ gardening programs

Kristen Wicker

For Carla and Scott Lachecki, who live in an urban Dayton neighborhood without much of a yard, renting a year-round community garden plot at Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark allows them to grow their own produce and share the natural world with their 3-year-old granddaughter, June.

“It’s nice to be outside, and the food you get is second to none,” Scott Lachecki says. “We’ve been able to feed our granddaughter since she was eating solid food. Her favorite is vegetable soup.”

Whether your dirt therapy comes in a community garden, your backyard or on an outdoor patio, gardening is a fruitful way to connect with nature and protect the planet. All gardens increase biodiversity while contributing to cleaner air and water. Growing food also helps maintain a healthy, active lifestyle and can even lower obesity and hunger rates.

“Gardening gives people a place and way to connect with nature and has tangible benefits that are different than those from a walk in woods,” says Luci Beachdell, Five Rivers MetroParks education coordinator. “Gardening takes me out of my house, touching green things that are growing. I’m out there with my hands in the dirt, creating a stronger ecosystem and, as long as I’m using sustainable methods, increasing biodiversity and soil health.”

Five Rivers MetroParks offers gardening programs year-round to help people learn how to grow food and flowers, as well as community garden plots for folks, like the Lacheckis, who want to grow more than their outdoor space allows.

MetroParks’ gardening programs focus on helping new gardeners get started, helping experienced gardeners use Earth-friendly practices and building a sharing community of gardeners.

Newer gardeners will learn how to prepare their vegetable or landscape garden for spring planting during the Garden Prep Boot Camp from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 23, at Possum Creek MetroPark. MetroParks experts will guide participants through clean-up and soil prep during this hands-on program, while also providing info on ways to assure a more suc­cessful gardening season with tips on site selec­tion, planting, supports and suggestions for weed prevention and irrigation techniques.

The annual Mayfair Plant Sale, a fundraiser for the Wegerzyn Gardens Foundation, is a great place to buy plants to put in those gardens. This year’s sale will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 30 and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, May 1. Perennial, annual, herb and vegetable plants are available, along with pass-along plants, dug from the gardens of area master gardeners.

MetroParks offers numerous other programs to help liven up your landscape, with a focus on sustainable gardening methods.

Wild About Wildflower Walks are held at Cox Arboretum MetroPark on select Sundays from 2 to 3 p.m. Volunteers lead informative walks and participants receive four wildflower seedlings. Learning from the Landscape programs are held at Cox Arboretum and Wegerzyn Gardens MetroParks Tuesdays from 6 to 7 p.m. and focus on landscape and food gardening. The popular annual Tree Seedling Giveaway at the 2nd Street Market will be held this year from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, April 15, and from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 16—while supplies last. While you’re there, pick up lunch, fresh produce, locally produced meat, bread, dairy and kitchen staples, flowers and more from over 40 vendors. Programs in May include a basic garden skills and tools review, a presentation on native plants and a pollinators and perennials workshop.

If you don’t have much garden space or just like the idea of growing with others, registration is now open to rent a plot in one of Five Rivers MetroParks’ community gardens for $20/year. Plots are prepped, and water is provided. Possum Creek MetroPark has approximately 100 garden plots, and Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark has approximately 300 garden plots, with year-round plots available for $40/year. Other options include joining one of the volunteer-run community gardens scattered throughout Montgomery County or starting your own. Learn more by attending the free program Start a New Community Garden, held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Thursday, May 5 at Possum Creek MetroPark.

Beachdell has seen the popularity of community gardens bloom since she first started with MetroParks’ Grow with Your Neighbors program in the late ʼ90s. Then, two dozen or so gardens were established. Today, 91 are up and growing—and volunteers manage, maintain and operate nearly all of them. This growth coincides with increased interest in local food and environmental protection, both of which community gardens address.

“We have to make spaces for biodiversity, pollinators and green things growing in healthy, sustainable ways in between the parks,” Beachdell says. “Gardening is an important part of Five Rivers MetroParks’ mission to protect the region’s natural resources and build a vital, active nature-based community.”

Regis­tration is required for most programs, and space is limited. Fees vary. For more information and to register, please visit metroparks.org/communitygardening or call 937.275.PARK (7275).

Reach DCP freelance writer Kristen Wicker at KristenWicker@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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