By Kevin Kelley
The lack of rain throughout much of the summer made 2012 a difficult one for gardeners. Nevertheless, the Mange Garden at the North Union Farmers Market at Crocker Park has experienced a bountiful harvest, and area food banks will reap the benefits.
Derived from the French verb “to eat,” the Mange Garden has donated 569 pounds of produce so far this year, said Krista Hermes, assistant operations manager for Crocker Park.
“Our goal is between 600 and 750 pounds, and we’re certainly going to meet that,” she said.
Launched three years ago as part of the Westlake development’s green initiative, the garden moved along with the farmers market to the area just east of the Bed, Bath & Beyond store. The move allowed planners to increase the size of the garden by a factor of three, Hermes said.
Children attending the farmers market May 12 were invited to help Crocker Park staff members plant the garden in raised boxes set up by the Crocker Park grounds and maintenance crew.
Involving children and introducing them to gardening is a big part of the garden’s purpose, said Hermes, who grew up on a farm and earned a degree in landscape horticulture from The Ohio State University.
“My grandma had me gardening at the age of 3,” Hermes recalled.
Tomatoes and peppers are the most abundant produce in the garden, which also includes onions, zucchini, cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, squash, celery, sweet corn and cabbage. Recycled PVC tubing and drain pipes were used to build a strawberry vine tower. No pesticides are used at the Mange Garden, Hermes said.
A miniature farm windmill and colorful, arching farm tools decorate the garden.
Thus far, the garden has not had any produce stolen by deer or other animals, Hermes said.
“Each week Crocker Park invites shoppers, residents and the community to help weed, till and harvest the garden,” she said. “We probably spend about three to four hours a week out here weeding and watering.”
The produce is turned over to the Master Gardeners of Cuyahoga County, which gives the fruits and vegetables to area food banks under a program called Plant A Row for the Hungry (PAR). The Garden Writers Association launched the Plant A Row program in 1995 in the belief that if every household gardener plants one extra row of vegetables for donation to a local food agency, a significant impact can be made on reducing hunger.
Harvesting at Mange Garden will continue until the first frost, Hermes said.