Name: Ret Lane, administrative assistant at Mercy, attending Eastern Star Missionary Baptist Church at Moore and Mulberry streets in North Toledo. Gardeners include Pastor John W. Williams, Joe Reynolds, Larence Reed, Ruby Weatherspoon, Charles Hutchen, Erikka and Charles Bates, Barbara Madden, Darnell Smith, Lester Ingram, Rev. Myron Marsenburg, Kahlie Whitt, Renee Legree, Darrell Brown.
Garden specs: Flowers surround the church and parsonage. For vegetables, we have two lots that had condemned houses on them: one has eight raised beds built by the men in the church and an additional area, the other has six raised beds. We’re doing the best we can in a gang-infested area. The church owns 80 parcels in the neighborhood; 10 are homes that we’ve fixed up and rent out at a low cost, 70 are empty lots, most of which had condemned houses. We pay a mowing service to cut the grass and each lot has a simple wooden sign near the sidewalk bearing its address. If people know somebody owns it they’re less likely to throw trash on it. It’s part of our ministry. The main thing is to keep the area looking nice. At first we had flower pots stolen or being knocked down so we put bricks in the bottom. You just keep going and I think you wear them down. Last year, no pots were stolen.
When did you start gardening? Pastor Williams: I came up on the farm in Arkansas. My parents grew cotton and corn and we had hogs and cows. Ret: Three years ago I was hearing about all these community gardens. We were in a recession and the price of vegetables were high so we were trying to offset those costs for our members and neighbors. I had not gardened since I was 14. My grandfather, Bishop Chapman, farmed six acres with the grandchildren at the [former] Pioneer Gun Club [a black hunting club on Silica Road in Sylvania Township]. He had a 1942 John Deere tractor and grew everything. The harvest went to club members, family, neighbors. We — about 10 of the grandkids — went there every day with his wife from the time we could walk. There was a pump for water. Our big treat was getting a small hamburger or Rudy’s hot dog afterward. My pastor has the same principle: nothing will be sold. It will be used to benefit the people.
What do you grow? Roses, tulips, daylilies, petunias lilies. Last year we grew too many vegetables, so this year we’ll have potatoes, green beans, cucumbers, turnip and collard greens, corn and watermelon. The first year, we put in strawberries and a guy helping us weed pulled them out.
Favorite plant: Amaranth. When it first shows up, tiny and red, it’s beautiful. It’s eye-catching and people ask if its rhubarb. And you can eat the medium-sized leaves; I steam them like spinach and add a little butter and salt.
Give us a tip: If the soil is horrible, fertilize it with coffee grounds.
Hours spent gardening per week: I put in about 15; other people put in a few hours a day through the week.
Annual expense: $100, plus about $200 for flowers.
Challenges: Last year’s drought.
What are you proud of? How our garden has beautified the neighborhood. I like the way that we have made a connection with people, they know we care and we’re not going anywhere. People aren’t spiteful, they might say, “I’ll water it if you need me to,” or little kids will help out.
What do you get out of gardening: Although gardening calls for a lot of work, it is very relaxing. I’ve learned gardening is therapeutic. As hard work as it is, once you are out there you get lost thinking and meditating.
Note: Donations of hoes, shovels, rakes, trowels, 100-foot hoses, plants, and perennials would be useful to the gardeners at the Eastern Star Missionary Baptist Church. Call the office at 726-1180.