Winter still has its grip on Northeast Ohio, but the time is drawing near for area gardeners to perk up.
Each of Portage County’s four cities, and at least one village and township, has at least one community garden available to residents.
While there are several types of community gardens serving various purposes, they essentially are pieces of land made available to community members to grow and harvest produce. Community gardens can be located on public or private land and usually are divided into individual plots, with each gardener responsible for their own plot. While produce yields from each plot belong to the individual gardener, they are sometimes made available to the community at large.
We took a look at several community gardens in Portage County to learn what’s in the works for 2023.
Streetsboro gardeners may enjoy Streetsboro’s Community Garden, located at The Chapel at Tinkers Creek, 9709 Page Road.
This year, The Chapel at Tinkers Creek is doubling the size of the garden from 18 to 36 plots, each one 10-by-20 feet and available for $20. Participants can reserve double- or even triple-plots if there is space.
The ground will already be prepared, and thanks to a nearby well, water is available. Gardeners don’t even need to bring their own hoses.
Reservations start in February. Visit Streetsboro Community Garden on Facebook, or wait for an in-person reservation day in March at the garden. (The date is TBA.)
If plots sell out as they did last year, The Chapel at Tinkers Creek is considering enlarging the garden even more. No raised plots are currently available, but installing some is under discussion.
Gardeners are encouraged to donate a portion of their harvest to Streetsboro’s Community Pantry. A donation box is conveniently located at the garden, and volunteers shuttle it to the pantry at Streetsboro United Methodist Church.
The garden is maintained by volunteers from the community pantry, the church and gardeners from previous years.
The Garden Club of Kent maintains a 136-plot community garden at 480 Ravenna Road, about halfway between Kent and Hudson.
Each plot is 40 feet by 16 feet and can be reserved for $40. Gardeners from the previous year are given priority, but new customers can be put on a waiting list. The plots are prepared and ready for planting, and water is available.
To reserve a space or to be put on a waiting list, contact Garden Club member Sue Abbott at 330-472-5109 by the end of February.
Edible Kent, founded in 2014, uses existing ornamental plots in the downtown area to grow free organic produce for all takers. An apple tree and a blueberry bush are located on Franklin Avenue by the Haymaker Bridge. A nearby garden, also on Franklin Avenue, contains cooking herbs as well as greens such as kale and collards.
Walls Elementary School at 900 Doramor St. offers 20 4-by-8-foot raised plots surrounded by an 8-foot deer fence. The garden is on the left side of the school.
The plots are free, the ground is prepared, and a water source and all tools are available.
Community members are also welcome to harvest produce from the garden’s apple trees, raspberry and strawberry patches, blueberry bushes, and squash and gourd harbor.
People who are not garden participants but wish to enjoy free produce just the same should be on the lookout for posted signs indicating what plots they can pick from. The signs will state “This Week’s Harvest” and direct people to specific crops in specific beds.
To reserve a plot — and it’s a good plan to do so in March or April — contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thomas-Anderson Memorial Garden is located at 1110 Walnut St. on private property owned by Doria Daniels, chair of the Historic South End Association.
With help from the Kent Environmental Council and a small army of volunteers, the space includes vegetable plots, healing and culinary herb gardens, a pollinator flower garden, and a fruit tree and berry garden.
Volunteers are welcome as long as they sign a waiver. They are welcome to pick produce from the garden, and whatever is left is displayed in a storage bin for the community to take. Much of the excess is donated to Kent Social Services, Daniels said.
To volunteer, email Daniels at email@example.com.
Another community garden is located behind the Kent Recreation Center on Franklin Avenue.
Sponsored by Kent Community Housing, the garden boasts several fruit trees, including cherry, paw paw and apple as well as perennial elderberry and blueberry patches.
People who utilize the rec center help plant, weed and water the garden, and Kent Cooperative Housing amends the soil each year before planting herbs, vegetables and flowers.
Community members are welcome to participate, and those who do are welcome to the harvest. Contact Kent Cooperative Housing at 330-541-5405.
Ravenna offers a community garden at Chestnut Hills Park on Chestnut Street across from Ravenna High School. For those not squeamish about gardening next to the city cemetery, 12 garden plots are available, each one about 20 feet by 20 feet.
The garden includes a couple raised beds for people with limited mobility.
The prepared plots cost $20 for senior citizens and $25 for all others. A water buffalo (large tank) with a small hose is on site; participants may bring a hose to connect to it or carry their own buckets.
The person who had the plot the previous year has priority, but newcomers will be considered at the beginning of March.
Aurora offers the Harmon Community Garden, which includes 199 plots, 10-by-20 feet, available for $10 to Aurora residents and $20 to nonresidents. Raised beds are leased in sets of two 4-by-8-foot beds for the same price.
Participants are given the option to renew on an annual basis. The ground is prepared for planting, a water source is available, and gardeners need not provide their own hoses.
The garden is located at Aurora’s Margaret Harmon property at 1157 Page Road. To reserve a plot, contact the Aurora Parks and Recreation Department at 330-562-4333, or visit the parks and rec website for a request form.
Shalersville’s Crossroads Community Church offers community garden spots at 9018 State Route 44. The church is located by the Dollar General store, near the intersection of state Route 44 and state Route 303.
Ten 15-by-20-foot prepared plots are located next to the church’s outdoor pavilion. A water source is available, and gardeners need not bring their own hoses.
The plots are free and may be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis by contacting the church at 330-296-6729. Gardeners may reserve more than one plot if they are not all spoken for.
Windham-area residents may visit the Ametek Food Forest at Windham’s Renaissance Family Center at 9005 Wilverne Dr., where an interior courtyard houses a permaculture food forest.
Students at Katherine Thomas Elementary School start many of the plants and help place them into the ground. The public is welcome to help garden manager Luke Cartwright and volunteers maintain and harvest the garden. Starting in May, Cartwright is available from 5-6 p.m. Mondays to guide would-be gardeners.
The garden includes ADA-compliant walkways and two raised beds so that everyone can experience gardening.
You don’t have to help out in the garden to be able to reap the harvest, which Cartwright and various volunteers set out for all takers. Look for a laden table by the RFC entrance doors.
Typical harvests include strawberries, grapes, red raspberries, blackberries, green beans, zucchini, tomatoes, culinary herbs, onions, Jerusalem artichokes and garlic. Purslane, chicory, and marshmallow root, commonly dismissed as weeds, are also offered.
Plots are not available for people to reserve, but people may call the RFC at 330-326-3003 with special requests for plantings.
The Renaissance Family Center is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays. The public is welcome whenever the RFC is open, and the door to the garden is always open.
Wendy DiAlesandro is a former Record Publishing Co. reporter and contributing writer for The Portager.