Garden a haven for monarch butterflies
Back on Feb. 2, Punxsutawney Phil didn’t see his shadow and predicted an early spring. With spring on the mind, the Washington Township Community Garden is accepting applications for the coming season.
Leon Lakritz, the chair of the open space advisory committee, said the grand opening for the community garden will take place on April 14, but gardeners may start as early as the third week of March.
The garden, located at the Greentree Road entrance of Washington Lake Park, can support 25 gardeners. Each gardener will receive a 10-foot by 10-foot plot of land to grow whatever they please. Lakritz said if a gardener registers before April 1 the annual fee is $15; after April 1 it jumps to $25. The application can be found on the township website, www.twp.washington.nj.us. He added money will not be collected until after March 15. For more information, contact the parks and recreation department at (856) 589–3277.
“The community garden is an opportunity for people in Washington Township, especially those without backyards or living in townhouses, to garden,” he said. “It’s a bargain. You can plant anything you want, the only restriction is you take care of your plot, and at the end of the season you remove everything.”
Lakritz touts the fact the community garden has enough water on site for all of the gardeners.
“We have spickets so people don’t have to walk more than 50 feet to water their garden,” Lakritz said. He added some gardens in other communities don’t have water on hand and gardeners would have to supply their own.
Included in the community garden is a space dedicated to growing food for Mother’s Cupboard, the food bank in town. Lakritz said gardeners supply them with fresh fruits and vegetables during the summer, specifically tomatoes and zucchini.
Vicky Binetti, chair of the environmental commission and member of the open space advisory committee, said the garden will also have a space dedicated to growing milkweed — just like they did last year. Milkweed is essential for monarch butterflies, it is the only food source for their caterpillars.
“The monarch butterflies are one of the charismatic symbols of how beautiful nature is. They really cause us to marvel at how delicately balanced all of our ecosystems are,” Binetti said.
According to Binetti, the monarch butterflies will come from as far south as Mexico and work their way up the east coast. When they stop along the way to reproduce, they will stop exclusively at places with milkweed plants because it is the only food source for the caterpillars.
To continue to promote the growth of the monarch butterfly population the environmental commission will hand out milkweed plants to residents at Super Saturday on May 11 at Washington Lake Park.
“We’re trying to encourage our residents and do our part as gardeners to make this habitat and food available for the monarch butterflies,” Binetti added.
Lakritz values the individuality and ownership people take of their small plots.
“We have 25 or so different gardeners, and each looks at gardening in a different fashion,” he said. “It’s marvelous to look at how creative some people can be.”
The gardeners are encouraged to plant as long as they wish, from the third week in March through the fall — the only thing Lakritz asks is to be cleaned out by Dec. 1.
“This is our third year, every year gets to be better than the previous year,” he said.
The open space advisory committee meets on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the municipal building. For questions about the community garden, email Lakritz at LeonLakritz@hotmail.com.