Williamstown Community Garden is halfway through its fourth growing season, has introduced a beehive, and is in the process of creating a labyrinth.
An open field behind the Monroe Township Public Library was transformed in 2017 into a community garden for Williamstown residents. According to Patrick McDevitt, chair of Sustainable Monroe Township, there was a question at the beginning of the season whether the garden would open amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
He went to the council and explained the garden plan and restrictions to keep residents safe. Some of those restrictions included limited to no social gatherings and no more sharing of community tools. Hand-washing stations were set up on site.
“This garden shows people it is really fun to practice sustainability,” said Cody Miller, council liaison for Sustainable Monroe township. “It allows citizens to understand that it is fun to be green.”
Usually, the garden is a venue for pot-lucks, yoga and other educational events. But due to COVID-19 all of their normal events were canceled and yoga and meditation classes were moved to Zoom.
Monday, Aug. 3 was their first in-person meditation in the garden and they plan on meeting again on Aug. 8.
The new beehive was donated by Triple Oaks Nursery in Franklinville. The beehive will allow for proper pollination across the garden. McDevitt is hopeful that the garden will be home to more beehives in the near future. The labyrinth is also at the beginning stages of construction and will be open to the public once it is finished.
The garden is open to every Williamstown resident, and each resident can grow anything they choose from fruits and vegetables to flowers. Large plots are $45, and the small plots are $25.
All the money goes back into the program and to upkeep a small plot where the committee grows herbs and flowers that are available to everyone. Children can enjoy their own section of the garden with a wagon full of flowers and a checkerboard with painted stone pieces.
“[The] intent of the garden was to build community; that’s our mission,” McDevitt said.
Applications to buy a plot start in February, the garden opens in April and closes for the winter on Nov 30. By January, the planning starts for the next season.
The garden has allowed the township to become part of the Sustainable New Jersey certifications for the past six years. McDevitt is hoping to renew their certification in 2021 while also moving from a Bronze certificate to Silver or Gold. These certifications provide funding to different types of sustainable projects.
“This year we are trying to get residents to fill out surveys explaining how their backyard is wildlife friendly,” McDevitt said. “If enough residents fill this out, we can get the entire town certified with the Wildlife Certification program.”
Sustainable Monroe Township is not alone in their efforts to create a greener community. They have worked together with local government in many ways including leaf and debris pick-up across town being brought to the garden for compost as well as solar initiatives.
When leaves are collected from the town and brought to the garden it is keeping them from being emptied into a landfill. According to Miller, the town is planning on capping one of their landfills in order to build a solar field in that space.
A current project for the organization and the town includes a basin clean-up.
“It’s a lot of attention and upkeep with basins around town when you’re mowing them,” Miller said. “There’s a lot of things you can do such as planting certain types of vegetation to both encourage certain types of wildlife while helping the groundwater to be able to percolate more adequately. This is less of a drain on municipal resources.”
For more information visit the Williamstown Community Garden Facebook page.