The Northeast Community Garden opened in 1997 on a vacant lot next to the Northeast Community Center. It quickly became so popular it ran out of space and had to be moved to its current location: the southwest corner of Hillyard’s Andrew Rypien Field.
Of the more than 20 community gardens, this one looks more permanent than most and it’s one of the oldest. It was then-Northeast Community Center board member Joyce Jones who initially got the idea for the garden. And it was a group of volunteers from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that built it.
“It very quickly ran out of space at the old location,” said Tracy Swank, assistant director of Northeast Community Center. In the middle of the 2006 growing season the community garden literally migrated to its current location: gardeners carried the soil they’d carefully conditioned and moved every plant that could make it to the new beds. The old garden location is now a parking lot.
From the very beginning, immigrants embraced the Northeast Community Garden. Today, its backbone is a group of dedicated old-world gardeners, many of whom immigrated from Russia and Ukraine, and brought with them the custom of gardening small, communal plots as if they were private backyards.
Perennials like daisies, roses and grapes grow here, but what dominates is a large number of gorgeous raspberry bushes.
“Whoever already has a garden plot here gets first dibs on the same plot for next year,” said Swank.
There are 48 large plots at the Northeast Community Garden, and there’s a waiting list.
“There are probably eight or nine people on the list,” said Swank. “Honestly I believe we could fill as many beds as we could build.”
Some new garden plots may be added this summer.
Assistant junior Scout master David Moody, 17, is volunteering to build garden beds that are accessible for people in wheelchairs or for those who have a difficult time bending over. The project will earn him the one merit badge he needs to become a Life Scout.
Another improvement will be gravel added to the garden paths, which are currently turf. Local landscaper Greenspace will be donating time and materials for that project.
“Between what David is doing and getting the gravel put in, it’s going to be a major improvement in terms of wheelchairs having access to the garden,” Swank said.