By Leslie Krowchenko
Special to the Times
SPRINGFIELD >> When actress Audrey Hepburn said “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” she could have had an organization like Chester Eastside Inc. in mind.
The budding horticulturalists captured first place in the Community Gardens category of the Delaware County Master Gardeners 27th Annual Garden Contest. Their blue ribbon was one of many presented Saturday at the Fall Fest in Smedley Park.
“The judges agreed that you had a wonderful all-season garden with a nice variety of vegetable plantings,” said contest chair Patty Rahi. “They were impressed you donated the produce to the church cupboard. Continue the good work!”
To accommodate their bountiful harvest, the Chester Eastside crew leased nine beds from the Master Gardeners, who own 26 plots adjacent to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Chester. The beds are rented to community members for $10 each. The masters started cold weather plants from seed in February, and warm weather ones in March, selling them for $5 per flat at the beginning of the season.
The project was intergenerational, as gardeners of all ages tended to the crops. Sweet potatoes, zucchini, butternut and pattypan squash shared space with tomatoes, strawberries, watermelon and sunflowers and the tweens, teens, millennials and baby boomers were all responsible for planting, weeding, watering and harvesting.
The display included a pollinator garden designed with specific nectar producing plants to attract insects such as bees, ants, butterflies and moths. The children made signs to identify each item.
“I liked that we got to see all the plants grow,” said Jeidalys Collado. “It was fun to see how each of them smelled.”
Enjoying the fruits (and veggies) of their labor was an added bonus. Eating string beans one helped to grow is much tastier than opening a can or frozen bag.
“We could take one thing at a time so there was enough for everyone,” said Nalia Diaz. “We shared them and if our parents wanted them, we took them home for dinner.”
The children also learned about the creepy crawlers who laid claim to the dirt.
“We captured a caterpillar and watched it become a butterfly,” said Lu’Nique Deedon.
The contest was open to all residents of Delaware County and Community Gardens was one of six categories. In addition, first place awards were presented in Ornamental Birds, Bees and Butterflies (Helga Hartung, Swarthmore); Ornamental Landscape Design (Caroline McGeehan, Trainer); Ornamental Native/ Wildlife (Linda Coulston, Middletown); Youth Gardens (Chester Boys and Girls Club); and Residential Vegetable Garden (John Steenberge, (Morton). Ribbons were also given for second and third place and honorable mention.
Fall Fest was a gardener’s paradise featuring a symposium, plant sale and marketplace. Workshops and lectures were available on topics including tool maintenance, corn husk/sunflower wreaths and an autumn craft workshop for children and adults.
“Everyone who participated learned what it means to really work in a garden,” said judge Elaine VanGeyten. “For the children, it provided the added benefit of growing nutritious foods and learning about sustainability.”
Members of Chester Eastside Inc.’s garden club display their blue ribbon in the Community Gardens category of the Delaware County Master Gardeners 27th Annual Garden Contest.