Community garden at Robinsons Gardens preparing for season
While many are harboring safely at home, two committed gardeners are getting the soil ready for planting at Springfield Housing Authority’s Robinson Gardens Apartments.
And the garden is waking up.
With rakes in hand and keeping a healthy social distance, Lynne Cimino, Outreach Coordinator at Robinson Gardens, worked alongside Anna Muhammad of Gardening the Community on a recent morning. They dug up soil tamped down by winter, pulled out old plants, twigs and stones, and evened out the lines and mounds for planting.
Despite SHA offices and programs having limited hours and contact due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cimino and Muhammad want to be sure that the garden will be running full steam for its seventh straight year.
The garden will feature its usual fare of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, snow peas, eggplant, corn, calabaza, collard greens, strawberries, and more.
SHA Executive Director Denise Jordan said she is glad to see the early garden work being done, and looks forward to the growing and harvesting seasons ahead.
“We support all of our community gardens and applaud the dedication at Robinson Gardens. Our staff and residents work together to make this a beautiful experience that benefits all,” Jordan said. “This is community at its very best.”
Jordan added, “I would like to thank Sister Anna for her dedication to ensuring that our children and families learn the benefits of gardening and eating healthy foods.”
Cimino said the garden has promoted community in addition to providing food, noting that some 20 families participate in the planting and tending, and that all residents at Robinson Gardens are welcome to join in, and to enjoy the fruits of the season’s work in the fall.
“We don’t want to miss out on the garden season this year, even with what’s going on,” Cimino said. “This is a healthy experience for everyone involved. Every year, we get more and more families coming out to help, and everyone can enjoy the harvest.”
The University of Massachusetts Extension Service Education Program will continue to provide an educational component for the children at Robinson Gardens. That has included working in the garden alongside children and activities in the Community Room that feature information along with cooking and healthy snacks.
This season, that youth program will be expanded to include children in their teen years. Many already participate in the Youth Group at Robinson Gardens.
Muhammad noted that the educational benefits of sharing gardens with youth cannot be overstated.
“Gardens become more important than ever in a situation like this when people are facing serious food shortages. Community gardens like this one can supplement the food in people’s homes,” she noted.
Education will include in-person and video lessons on composting, preparing the soil, growing plants, how to recognize when plants aren’t healthy, how to add nutrients to the soil, how to tend growing plants and how to harvest, among other things.
Muhammad said her work will also include helping residents to grow plants indoors that can reap food for the family.
Gardening the Community is a Springfield group that supports and promotes community gardens on vacant and abandoned lots across the city.
Cimino noted that in past years, participating families would come out during this preparation time to help out. But with the social distancing due to COVID-19 risks, that is not possible this year.
One avid gardener at Robinson Gardens, Ivette Fernandez and her son Hancel, watched from their back window as Cimino and Muhammad toiled.
“It’s sad that we can’t help right now. I would love to be out there helping them,” Hernandez said.
“But we’ll be out there soon enough – as soon as we can in safety,” she noted.
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