BERKELEY – There’s milkweed in a butterfly garden. There’s a honeybee hive box by the pumpkin patch. Both are there to bring pollinators to the Wrangle Brook Community Garden. In addition to these, other helpers have been coming once a week.
Members of The Arc, Ocean County Chapter have been working in the garden. They pull weeds, plant seeds, and pick ripe fruits and vegetables.
Lisa spent some of her time pulling dead leaves to keep the plant healthy. “He’s bad. He’s got to get taken out. We can’t have bad leaves,” she explained.
Kathy Toohey, instructional specialist with the Arc, said they come once a week as long as it’s not too hot out. They planted seedlings in April and take pictures of the progress. Watching the plants grow, they feel pride in being a part of it.
“We love it,” she said. “They do a fantastic job.”
It’s part of a job sampling program. They learn techniques to see what they might like to do. They’re always looking for more job sampling options, she said.
Mark Baranyay is an intern with the Master Gardener program who does outreach for the garden, going to elementary schools and getting kids interested in gardening. This transitioned to working with the Arc. The members were very excited and asked if they can come back one day a week.
“They started planting herbs, like dill. They did great,” he said. “I look forward to my Wednesdays.”
The Arc members asked questions, and listened carefully as Baranyay explained how to know when blackberries were perfect for picking. Then, he let them sample some of the berries that they picked. Other things they picked went to food pantries, so they also felt proud that they were helping people in need.
“He’s taught us so much,” said Tiffany. “I’ve got to say I was impressed with the strawberries.”
The garden opened several years ago on an unused section of land between Lakehurst Road in Toms River and the entrance to Silver Ridge Park East. This area used to have a small beach for the branch of the river, and a basketball court. Over time, it had been abandoned. Then, volunteers turned it into a community garden.
Being that close to the river, there are no artificial fertilizers and no pesticides. Some residents have their own boxes that they tend. Pounds and pounds of food are donated to food banks. There’s even a memorial garden for one of the founding members.
The township cuts the grass and takes out the garbage. There are compost bins out back to recycle unused organic matter. There’s also decoy plants to keep the deer fed so they don’t try to get at the fence.
They recently donated more than 30 pounds of beans and 19 pounds of garlic, garden coordinator Bonney Parker said as an example. Other crops include lemon drop squash, Swiss chard, pepper, and more.