Community garden planting food, beauty
IIB continues projects to improve look of city
By 11 a.m. Wednesday the temperature was already at 97 degrees, but not too hot for 7-year-old Thomas Stapleton to check out his patch of cucumbers, tomatoes and squash.
Reaching into the leaves, he pulls out one of the first cucumbers of the season.
“Anything fresh,” his grandmother, Mary Van Meter, said. “We’ve already had zucchini, squash and tomatoes.”
Likewise Van Meter’s neighbor, Rosemary Joseph, has beans and hot peppers ready to pick.
Just like all the other plots at the first-ever community garden in Ironton, despite the late start for the project.
“Because we didn’t have it ready until right before Memorial Day, it is a little behind the gardens in town, but it is looking lovely,” Carol Allen, Ironton in Bloom president said.
IIB teamed up with Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital and the Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization to create the garden project with all plots taken by those who didn’t have enough space at their home or apartment.
The garden is one of many projects IIB has initiated since its inception six years ago. One of the most visible is the hanging baskets and plantings throughout the downtown area. That project costs the organization approximately $40,000 a year.
To cover that cost IIB hosts a number of fundraisers including the annual Over the Backyard Fence garden tour in June and individual and business sponsorships.
This summer’s garden tour netted $1,300, a little less than last year, but up from the year before.
“Our attendance was down, but people came from South Shore, Huntington, Ashland,” she said. “The word is getting out that this is a really lovely way to spend an afternoon.”
The OPT sponsorship program has brought close to the amount the organization needs. There are 10 OPT area sponsors who have paid at least $1,000 and receive a specially designed sign to be displayed at a business or residence.
“Some have given $2,500,” Allen said. “We just couldn’t be happier with the interest business have shown in sponsoring an area of Ironton.”
Also participating in the program are those who give from $200 to $1,000 to sponsor at least one container of flowers. They receive a certificate. All participants promise to make the contribution each year.
“This year we still have $3,000 that we need in order to make our final bill that we make in October,” Allen said. “We are sustaining ourselves.”
The next project will be selling bulbs to be planted in the fall. Those will go on sale in August.
In late fall IIB volunteers will plant the native garden at St. Mary’s Medical Center-Ironton Campus that will be a low-maintenance plot with plantings indigenous to southern Ohio.
The lecture series continues on the first Tuesday in August.
“It has been fun to see how Coal Grove has picked up part of it … Ashland has picked up part of it,” Allen said. “Their hanging baskets are looking wonderful.”
Huntington, W.Va., recently started an affiliate of America In Bloom, the parent organization for IIB.
“We worked with them and met with them a couple of times in their preparation,” she said. “It is fun to see these projects spread out. The whole community and area benefits.”