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Community garden is tucked beside school

KENT — Tucked beside Kent Center School is a small bit of land that isn’t easy to farm on a large scale. But, as it turns out, it’s a great place for a garden.The idea for a community garden came out of the Kent Land Trust’s 2009 planning session.“Over the winter of 2009, we surveyed Kent residents to see what the interest was,” said Connie Manes, Land Trust executive director. “Were we out of our minds? Was anyone going to come garden in a community garden? What we found was that there were lots of different groups in Kent attracted to the idea of a community garden.”Some of the reasons people said they were interested in the garden were because they rent or they didn’t have space, or the space they did have was too shady or too rocky. Others said they were interested in the social aspect of a community garden while some were intrigued by the reported fertility of the valley by the Housatonic River. “There was a whole lot of interest, so we decided to go forward for the summer of 2010,” said Manes. “The best advice we got was to just do it. It’s never going to be right, you’re never going to know exactly what you’re doing, and that’s OK, because it’s a garden. You plant stuff and it grows.”Roseanne and Peter Thorn of New York City and Kent discovered that the land was indeed fertile.“Digging in this ground was like a total dream,” said Roseanne Thorn. “The soil is deep and rich here because it’s river bottom soil.”Last year the Thorns harvested 150 pounds of heirloom tomatoes from their plot. They said working the garden has offered them the opportunity to meet new people and become more involved in the community. Jane Kates, Michael Ward and Janett Downes, gardening on behalf of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Kent, have used their plots to give back to the community. The flowers they grow grace the church’s altar and the vegetables go to the Kent Food Bank, which serves more than 60 families. This year, they expanded from two to four plots and opted to try raised beds outlined with black locust wood. Ward explained that black locust is nature’s pressure-treated wood and fits with the collective effort to keep the garden chemical free.Matt Palumbo of Kent described his second year of gardening as “a labor of love and a chance to play with Mother Nature. Every year is a learning experience.” Professional garden photographer, writer and garden coach (and Lakeville Journal garden columnist) Karen Bussolini is gardening in the community garden for the first time this year. She has opted to grow hearty wintergreens, which she will be able to harvest until Christmas.“I came here because there’s water, it’s flat and there are no deer,” Bussolini said. “Plus, it’s such good company.” This summer a shed is being erected to house larger, communal tools, which Manes said is a huge step toward making the garden easier to use. She said the next step, probably before next summer, is a fence to keep deer and other creatures out.Manes said there’s room for new gardeners and possibly more plots. Some of the current gardeners have asked to have a registration in the fall so they can reserve their same plots, and Manes said there will likely be another registration in the spring. For information, contact her at 860-488-9185 or connie.manes@kentlandtrust.org.“It’s a work in progress,” Manes said. “It just keeps getting better. Like any garden, you have to find your way and see what works best for that particular site.”

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