Community garden in Black Mountain opens season

Barbara Hootman

There is no better place to dig in the dirt and make a difference than at the Dr. John Wilson Community Garden in Black Mountain. Not only do gardeners grow fresh vegetables for their own tables, they also grow for the less fortunate members of the community.

There will be a “blessingway” (a ceremony to create spiritual support for the project), workday and potluck on Saturday, March 19. The workday starts at 10:30 a.m. and last until noon. Bring chairs, plates, cups, bowls and utensils. The potluck lunch is from noon-1 p.m.

After the “blessingway,” gardeners and friends are encouraged to stay and beautify the garden or to begin working in their own plots. Help is needed in cleaning and organizing the barn, spreading mulch around the fruit and nut trees and in weeding garden beds. The community garden is at 99 White Pine Drive, off Blue Ridge Road.

“Many years ago when Cloud Cottage, Black Mountain’s Buddhist sangha, had a plot, a blessing was shared for the garden and new greenway trail,” Diana McCall, garden manager, said via e-mail. “It remains one of the more beautiful experiences I’ve had with the greater community at the garden.

“Folks of all faiths and traditions shared a poem, song, prayer or story. Then we walked in silence around the garden along the greenway trail. I recognized how the experience brought together our community, not just garden members, in ownership and gratitude for this beautiful space we all have the privilege to caretake.

“Last year, I decided we needed to make the blessing of the garden an annual practice to continue to share our gratitude and encourage everyone’s involvement in caretaking the garden.”

Nancy Gavin, one of the newer gardeners at the community garden, was impressed with last year’s garden blessing. She described it as “wonderful.”

“It was a time to pause, give thanks, connect with the spirit of the land and also the spirit of this community,” Gavin, who had never participated in a community garden, said. “A lot of sharing takes place in the garden. Friendships I made in the garden have continued outside the garden as we discovered other shared interests. I am excited as we begin this new season and look forward to reconnecting with old friends and meeting new friends.”

McCall has managed the Dr. John Wilson Community Garden since 2005. Wilson, now more than 100 years old, established the garden in 2004 when he requested, from the town of Black Mountain, a place for people to grow food for themselves and for those in need. The town set aside 1.25 acres for a community garden, and 12 people rented plots from the town’s Recreation and Parks Department. Now some 70 plots are rented to gardeners.

The first community garden in 2004 generated nearly 1,000 pounds of fresh produce, which was donated to local food centers.

In 2015, the garden donated 4,699 pounds of produce - mostly fresh greens such as collards, chard, spinach, lettuce and kale - to Bounty & Soul, a food outreach program, McCall said. Volunteers worked 1,896 hours.

The Dr. John Wilson Community Garden is a multipurpose resource for the Black Mountain community. It focuses on educating people of all ages about growing, preparing and preserving nutritious food.

The garden produced vegetables up until Christmas. January was too cold to garden, but produce was harvested throughout February of this year.

McCall said tilling the soil is not allowed in the community garden, not even in individual plots, because it causes the dirt to compact and create a hard pan. The gardeners’ philosophy is to disturb the earth as little as possible. The garden also receives donated mulch and horse manure and has an ongoing large composting program. Rain is collected because there are a lot of plants to be watered regularly. Organic gardening practices are used throughout the garden.

Garden plots have been assigned for this year, but volunteers are needed. For more contact diana.mccall@townofblack