Community Garden

A zucchini plant grows in a plot in Perry Hall's new community garden. (Photo by Karen Jackson / June 19, 2013)

A significant amount of cross pollination goes on at the new Perry Hall community garden, and it's not limited to the plants.

Gardeners sharing tips are part of the growth process at the plot tucked behind the Rosedale Federal Savings & Loan Association building at 9616 Belair Road, at the intersection with Baker Lane.

One of the gardeners, Anne Hanson, said she could use the help.

"I have zero gardening experience. I have a black thumb," she said with a laugh.

But with the aid of some guidance from fellow growers, she's cultivating a patch of tomatoes and basil, which will go into sauces and pesto. A fan of spicy food, she's also trying her hand growing habanero and purira peppers.

She said she's now been bitten by the gardening bug.

"I would do it again next year. It took a lot of prep work this time because it's a new garden. There was a lot of picking out rocks and tilling. I didn't know how much sheer physical work was involved," Hanson said. "I think next year I might get a tiller."

For both newbie and hardcore growers, word has gotten out that land is available to cultivate in Perry Hall.

Most of the 21 plots, each 10 feet by 10 feet, have been claimed since the garden was laid out in April, according to Mark Patro, a Perry Hall activist and blogger, who has been instrumental in launching the garden. He said he might be able to accommodate a latecomer or two. He wants to see them all taken — it keeps the weeding down.

For Patro, the community garden is a project that will pay off more and more as years go by.

"It will take a couple years to get the soil in optimum condition," he said.

However, he has high hopes for the tomatoes, zucchini and peppers growing in his plot, which he treated with copious organic compost.

The seeds of the community garden were planted about a year ago when Patro used his blog to stir up interest in a community garden in the area. That resulted in a meeting last fall attended by about eight people. At a follow-up meeting in March, 20 soil searchers turned out, he said.

The question of where to put a garden was solved by Rosedale Federal, which had unused land on its tract where both its main and a branch office are located.

Nancy Alperstein, vice president and marketing director for Rosedale Federal, said the firm's CEO, Tom Wintz, wanted to see a community use on the property. Meanwhile, on a trip to California, Alperstein chanced to see the Santa Monica Civic Garden, an urban oasis filled with avid local gardeners.

She brought the idea of putting a community garden next to the bank back to Wintz, who agreed.

"We wanted to provide a venue where people could come together," Alperstein said.

Then Alperstein raised the issue with County Councilman David Marks, who had already been in touch with Patro on the subject of starting up a community garden. It was a green destiny.

"All the stars were aligned," Alperstein said.

"It was perfect timing. It was win-win for everyone involved," Marks said. "My job as a councilman is helping things happen, and often that is without government money."