Most of us here at Maples at the Sonatas would not use adjectives like peaceful and easy to describe our neighborhood this summer. When we hear the word growth, we think of sales and construction and closings—all of which have been fast and furious.
But quietly, unobtrusively, another kind of growth is happening. This is the sweet, silent, delicious growth of plants in our community garden. Located near our parking lot—and directly across the street from Home Sweet Abbey—is a leafy, green oasis adding beauty to our neighborhood.
Now in its third summer, the garden is having its best season ever. This week, the green beans are ready to pick, green tomatoes are beginning to turn yellow, large zucchini hide under their luxurious vines, and savory herbs beg creative cooks to snip them. Sunflowers are drooping under the weight of huge buds that look oh-so close to opening.
Our neighbor, Sylvia, came up with the idea of a garden in March 2011. After living near a community garden in her former home in Hoffman Estates, she wondered if a similar one would work here.
Sylvia and Ollie, both members of our social committee, took the proposal to our builder, Jamie Wilcox, who supported the idea. He suggested a location for such a garden and offered to cover half the cost of starting it.
When Sylvia and Ollie presented their idea of a garden at the next monthly coffee, it was well received by the homeowners. Twelve of us chipped in to cover the remainder of the cost of hiring our landscaping firm to dig and prepare the 32- by 8-foot garden.
Sylvia then asked the participating neighbors what they would like to see planted. She was given a list with everything from parsley to sweet corn. But when it came time to do the actual planting and weeding, too many of us let Sylvia and a handful of others do most of the work.
That first summer was a learning process. The soil quality was not very good, and some vegetables refused to thrive, or even grow. Nevertheless, a few things did well, and the garden yielded enough of a crop to keep us encouraged.
The next spring, 2012, Sylvia and her husband Joe worked bags and bags of mushroom compost and manure into the soil, improving its quality. She planted the vegetables that had done well the previous summer and eliminated others that hadn’t.
Also, early last summer, a handful of our hardworking men, led by Bob and Bob, extended the underground sprinkler system from our clubhouse out to the garden. That was a godsend, considering the extremely hot, dry weather we had. With daily watering, the garden did better than the previous year but still suffered from the heat.
This year is by far the best yet. Our crops include green peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, green beans, lettuce, collards, and a number of different herbs. The garden is completely enclosed by a row of flowers, with sunflowers along the back and marigolds on the front and sides. Those marigolds were a gift from Wilcox Communities, received during our Flower Power event in May.
A final improvement this year comes in the form of willing, reliable help for Sylvia. Two neighbors, experienced gardeners, who moved in during the past year have really stepped up. Fred was a great help with adding compost and digging this spring, and Bonnie is a frequent weeder.
Sylvia suggested early on that the garden be for everyone to share. The plot is too small to subdivide into individual gardens, so it belongs to us all. There is no requirement of donating money or physical labor. The produce is there for whoever wants to walk by and pick it.
None of this would have happened without Sylvia. Under her leadership, the garden has become a beautiful reality for all to enjoy.