South River garden project is first on converted Blue Acres property

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SOUTH RIVER–The transformation of a plot of Blue Acres property into a vegetable and flower bed will result in the borough’s first community garden that is scheduled to open in May.

“South River sustained a lot of damage from superstorm Sandy, damages which continue to leave their mark even today,” said Denise Batista, Friends of the South River Community Garden chairperson. “We seek to rejuvenate and reactivate those damaged spaces, while also connecting multiple organizations in town – including the Board of Education, the public library, the Council of Churches, the Girl and Boy Scouts, the senior citizens community, among a few – to the project, building a healthy, neighborly infrastructure into the garden plans.”

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The plan is to build a permanent garden near 118 Causeway St. on Blue Acres property, which is flood-prone land that was purchased by the state, according to Batista.

“This has never been attempted before by any other town in New Jersey, making it a landmark collaborative project between a municipality and the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection. Rutgers University’s Office of Agriculture and Urban Programs has recently joined the project as well,” Batista said.

 

The catalyst in moving forward with this project was the Sustainable Jersey Certification process, which was listed as a town action item. It was agreed that the community garden would meet the certification requirements while benefiting the town and its residents, according to Batista.

“While we are under the review and planning process, a temporary garden will be located at Causeway Park, further down the road, on borough-owned property. The permanent garden will be located across from Causeway Ice Cream. We are tickled by the serendipity of an ice cream shop across the street from a vegetable garden. It is a deliberate effort to add extra family fun and interest to an underutilized space,” Batista said.

The finished garden will be approximately 160 feet wide and 100 feet long, but there are plans to expand to other locations throughout the town in the future, according to Batista.

“It will be an organic vegetable garden, but residents are encouraged to also plant annual flowers, specifically those that attract pollinators like bees and butterflies. Most annual, non-invasive vegetables will be permitted. Things such as bell peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers are most common,” Batista said. “There will also be plots dedicated exclusively to vegetables in the squash family. Perennial vegetation such as asparagus and berry bushes will be reserved for other spaces in the garden, or in containers.”

Registered gardeners will be permitted access dawn to dusk from mid-April through mid-November. The organization will have volunteers and skilled gardeners onsite to provide assistance and oversight, according to Batista.

For 2018 , plots will be available for rent for $30 for both residents and non-residents. As the project develops, the organization will revisit the non-resident rates if it finds that residents are on a waiting list, according to Batista.

“We are operating as a [non-profit organization] to allow for fundraising and sponsorship opportunities. The plot fees will not cover much by way of garden maintenance, so we seek donors and sponsors,” Batista said.

Registration will soon be available on the borough website.

“We are currently seeking donations of new or used gardening supplies for community use, but gardeners are encouraged to bring and label their own supplies, at least for the first season,” Batista said.

 

With the garden expected to open in May, the Friends of the South River Community Garden are planning “Garden Build” events on April 14 and 21, where families, friends and skilled workers can volunteer to assemble garden boxes and install the fence, according to  Batista.

For more information, visit the Friends of the South River Community Garden Facebook page or email communitygarden@southrivernj.org.
Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.

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