Plot reservations available starting March 21
As winter wanes and the outdoor world hints at spring, John Gorski of St. Charles isn’t waiting with bated breath for the ground to thaw. He already has plenty of green, leafy vegetation flourishing right within his home.
Gorski and his wife, Mary, kick off the growing season with an advantage. Avid gardeners, the two grow an abundance of produce at their community garden plots located within the idyllic setting of Primrose Farm Park.
“The garden plots have motivated people like us to grow plants indoors at home and then transfer them to the plot,” Gorski said. “This technique allows for a great variety. It’s how we get the many varieties of tomatoes and peppers that we do.”
But while the couple brandishes thumbs more emerald-hued than the Jolly Green Giant’s—Gorski estimates they grow 40 different types of tomatoes and 50 varieties of peppers—it’s not all highly experienced gardeners working the soil at the community plots.
Cori Hedlund, registration supervisor at the St. Charles Park District, sees people of all skill levels sign up for plots in which perennials and annuals are given the space to thrive.
The program operates with 262 plots at Primrose Farm Park and 209 plots at James O. Breen Community Park. Plots vary in size with 30 by 30 feet and 15 by 30 feet at Primrose Farm Park and 20 by 30 feet at James O. Breen. Six raised beds measuring 10 by 4 feet at James O. Breen are available for gardeners with special needs.
“There’s a lot of community out at our garden plots,” said Hedlund, who notes that most people sign up because they’re seeking an area to grow edible plants. It may be that they don’t have the outdoor space themselves or are perhaps in need of a plot far more sizable than their own yard can accommodate, she added.
While it’s many of the same faces she sees year after year, Hedlund did notice an influx of new participants when the pandemic hit and many other activities became inaccessible.
“The community gardens provided a benefit to everyone’s mental health during that time,” she said. “It was tremendous and I feel fortunate to have been a part of it.”
Donation bins that accept gardeners’ excess produce for the food pantry at Salvation Army Tri-City Corps’ Joe K. Anderson Community Center on Seventh Ave. add to the community feel.
There’s no denying the feel-good element for Gorski and his family who tend to their plots, ripe not only with tomatoes and peppers, but rutabaga, parsnips, beets and potatoes as well.
“Most of the people out at the community gardens have gotten to know each other. Everyone is very friendly,” he said.
And it’s not just idle, if neighborly, talk Gorski finds when chatting with his fellow gardeners. It’s an informal education too.
“It’s like a mini Master Gardener university. So many people have experiences with seeds and plants,” he said. “There’s a lot you can learn to increase your production.”
Not that production is necessarily a challenge for John and Mary Gorski, who also grow plentiful squash and pumpkins, while daughter, Meghan, coaxes beautiful blossoms such as cosmos and zinnia to life. An EMT, Meghan Gorski has been known to bring her flowers into hospital settings.
“It really brightens peoples’ day,” said Gorski, a smile in his voice.
Perennial and annual plots can be rented from April 1 to October 31. Park district staff tills at the beginning of the season while maintenance occurs from spring through fall as crews mow the grassy pathways between plots and work to keep everything tidy.
“It’s presented very nicely,” Gorksi said. “They do a great job.”
And while no one can take credit for it, there is one more thing Gorski simply loves to see when he’s working in his garden plot at the end of the day.
“The sunsets are just beautiful out there.”
Plots can be reserved for all those interested beginning March 21.
For more information, visit www.stcparks.org/garden-plots.