Garden spots in Vernon Hills draw high praise
VERNON HILLS Friday Jul 27 2012 Nine-year-old Emily Hu of Vernon Hills waters a tomato plant inside of the community garden that she helped plant at the Vernon Hills Park District's Community Gardens at Century Park. | Michelle LaVigne~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 3, 2012 6:09AM
Sarah Seiwert enjoys spending a few hours a week tending her small garden plot at the new community garden at Hartmann Park in Vernon Hills.
“Gardening is a hobby of mine, and I find it very relaxing,” she said. “I’m a mother of five so when I do go to the garden I usually leave the kids with my husband.”
The Vernon Hills Park District started a community garden at Century Park for the first time last year, and because of its popularity, opened a second site this year in Hartmann Park.
“I’m thankful that the park district has introduced this program to the community and I’m hopeful they will introduce more community gardens to other areas,” said Seiwert, who had a vegetable garden plot at Century Park last year and has one this year at Hartmann Park.
Marty Walsh, recreation supervisor for the Vernon Hills Park District, said the idea for the community gardens was an outgrowth of the environmental sustainability plan developed by the park district in 2010. One of the focuses of that plan was the establishment of more environmental programs in the park district.
“On a personal level, I’ve been a gardener at home for many years now and it’s been something on my radar screen for a number of years,” he said. With the board’s support, the district opened the first community garden with 16 plots last year at Century Park. They opened a second garden site with nine plots at Hartmann Park this year.
Because of the substantial public interest, Walsh said they had to do a lottery to determine who would get the garden plots this year.
“Everybody has been really supportive of the gardens,” he said. “Throughout the country, there has been a growth in community gardens or urban gardens.”
Walsh said community gardens are part of the environmental sustainability movement across the country and people are becoming more interested in organic, locally grown foods.
“And, it’s a tasty hobby,” he said. “It’s one of the most delicious hobbies you can partake in.”
Walsh added that the community gardens also is an option for people who want to garden but don’t have the ability to do so where they live.
“If you live in an apartment or a condo, you may not have the ability or space to plant your own vegetable or flower garden,” he said.
Most of the items planted in the community gardens are vegetables, such as tomatoes, zucchini, pepper, beans and even pumpkins, but many of the gardeners also add annual flowers to give the gardens color. Gardeners at the community gardens agree not to use pesticides or other chemicals in their gardens.
Vernon Hills resident Bill Progar said he started a garden plot at the community garden in Century Park last year and is doing it again this year. He plants vegetables such as tomatoes and zucchini and some flowers including sunflowers.
“I just enjoy gardening,” he said. “It’s like therapy to me. I find it very relaxing.”
“It’s just fun to go visit the garden and see how it’s growing and see what other gardeners are growing,” he said. “You also get to meet other gardeners so it’s a social thing.”
Progar said he usually tends the garden with his brother and sometimes takes his youngest son, Connor, to the garden to teach him about gardening. “He learns a little bit about gardening, how things grow, how to take care of the plants,” he said. “I think the most fun thing for kids is to plant a seed and get to see it grow.’
The park district also offers a youth gardening class on one of the plots of land at the community garden in Century Park to help teach students about the art of gardening. The youth gardening program is held every other Saturday between June and August and this year nearly double the number of kids are participating compared to last year, Walsh said.
The community gardens are filled for the season but applications for plots will be accepted for next year sometime in early spring. For more information, visit the park district website at www.vhparkdistrict.org or call (847) 996-6935.