A sign placed in the soil reads: "Plant kindness. Harvest love."
Kit Nilles' quiet inspiration proved one of the creative forces behind the community garden on the corner of North Fifth and Ivy streets in Medford. Kit is the garden manager and a member of St. Mark's Episcopal Church Outreach Program. She and her husband, Jerry, helped build this corner.
Materials and labor are needed for a fence to enclose the children's area.
Plants are needed for the children's area.
Plants are needed for groundcover between beds.
Plants are needed for the street strip.
Contact Kit Nilles: 541-864-9973
Five small children run into the garden clutching watering cans, the red, green and blue colors flashing in the sun. The children water the tomatoes they helped plant and play in the dirt before splashing their hands in buckets of water. Kit watches with a wide smile. The youngsters attend the Family Nurturing Center next door, and the center partners with St. Mark's in the Community Garden Project.
"The idea came up in a whole bunch of places all at once," Kit explains. The land, vacant and full of weeds, was "just sitting here waiting for a plan," she adds. St. Mark's and the Family Nurturing Center combined forces. The church owns the lot; the center pays for insurance. The Maslow Project tends a corner on the north end of the garden, full of corn, squash and beans. DASIL — Disability Advocacy for Social and Independent Living — cares for a bed. The Medford Youth Cooperative, part of The Job Council, joins local high school students growing vegetables for ACCESS Inc., the county's emergency food bank.
The Job Council's Rogue Valley YouthBuild program dispatched a crew of young men and women to construct the garden shed. A bin is brimming with compost donated by Rogue Disposal & Recycling. The top soil was a gift from Twin Creeks of Central Point.
On May 20, participants celebrated opening day, and keys to the shed were given to all gardeners who had signed up and paid the nominal fee to cultivate their own beds. Each plot is now bursting with zucchini, tomato, basil, squash, lettuce, flowers and more.
Neighbors who have purchased their own patches come out and visit while they water. One man brings his folding chair. Laughter spills out of a house next door. This is all part of what Kit had hoped would happen.
On the first Sunday of every month from 1 to 3 p.m., Kit organizes a work party. Gardeners pull weeds along the wooden fence constructed with help from the Rogue Valley After Five Rotary Club. Kit's husband, Jerry, cut each board.
Kit dreams up plans for next year. She envisions a Willow Tunnel leading to a Fairy Garden and an arbor erected next to the shed to provide shade. A future planting of an ABC garden along the north fence line would feature flowers beginning with the letters of the alphabet.
When the children have finished their gardening, they return to the Family Nurturing Center. Their bright-red wheelbarrow and child-sized gardening tools are back in the storage shed. A group of vegetable starts sits beneath a sign that reads: "Free plants for our gardeners."
This community garden is an organic one. Each participant has signed a contract agreeing to care for a designated bed, pull weeds and attend monthly gatherings. At these events everyone works on a project together.
At noon, a young mother holding a baby on her hip wanders in. Her face fills with wonder. She surveys the beds of flowers and vegetables. "I used to live right across the street," she tells Kit, who acknowledges the compliment evident in her visitor's voice.
A wind chime suspended from a white pole-bean support stirs, its bright fuchsia and purple reflecting light. Kit expresses gratitude for a recent generous donation from The Carpenter Foundation and the work of St. Mark's Outreach. "This would have been a good project if its only purpose had been to grow vegetables. But it is so much more. A community has grown up around a beautiful spot."