Gateway Garden began as an idea from Senior Leader Lance Bane during a conversation with Frank Pack in August 2015 with the stated purpose of establishing a means to supplement food pantry patrons with nutritious fresh vegetables. The slogan that Lance introduced to the congregation was “Gateway Garden: Growing for Our Neighborhood”. Lance asked if Frank would oversee the initiation, development and evolution of the Gateway Garden using available land at the back of Gateway property and asked for volunteers to assist in the effort.
The Gateway Garden Project can be divided into several stages:
- Evaluation of the soil quality and design of garden layout (August 2015).
- Initial soil preparation and limited planting of selected crops to get a quick start to demonstrate progress.
- Long-term preparation of the complete garden for 2016.
- Establishing a functional, cost-effective fence to prevent deer access.
- Selecting, growing, planting, watering crops on a rotational basis to optimize use of space and resources.
- Harvesting crops to enhance and optimize nutritional value to patrons.
Generally, crops were selected based on high levels of vitamins, minerals and/or anti-oxidants.
The garden was divided into several main areas:
- Small grape vineyard with primarily seedless pigmented
- Bramble berry patch using thornless blackberries and everbearing raspberries
- Strawberry patch using June-bearing strawberries
- Blueberry patch
- Main vegetable garden (90’ x 20’)
- Sloped side garden (100’ x 8’)
- Herb garden
- Fruit orchard (semi-dwarf trees)
A recent addition has been the allocation of land within traffic islands of the parking lot for growing a variety of vegetables.
Topsoil from a local dairy farm was mixed with mulched leaves, peat moss, winter cover crops. The following selected crops were sewn by hand, and nurtured with two crops of greens harvested for the food pantry in the Fall of 2015.
- Daikon Radish
In January, 2016, 45 cubic yards of topsoil were trucked in and manually moved (wheel barrows) by volunteers to the main garden, side garden and blueberry patch. The main garden was then arranged in 4- 90’ rows with 2’ balks and cross balks every 30’ dividing the garden into 3 sections for easy access. A water hose was run in the water drainage system to the garden area.
Initial crops sewn in early April, 2016 included:
- Red Russian & Scottish Kale
- Upland Cress
- Mustard Greens
- Rainbow Swiss Chard
- Beet Greens
- Italian Parsley
- Onion sets
- Peppers (sweet and a variety of hot peppers)
- Yellow Squash
- Beans (a variety of pole and bush beans)
- Heirloom Tomatoes (approximately 175 plants)
Many vegetable plants were grown from seed by Garden volunteers. Companion plants (marigolds, nasturtium, basil, petunias, mint, etc.) suitable for each vegetable type were also planted to help control insect pests naturally.
The first harvest was in May, 2016 and was limited an estimated 30 lbs. of spinach available.
Perspective on Future Garden Development
Frank Pack will enroll in the Connecticut Master Gardener Program through the University of Connecticut Extension System with classes commencing in January 2017. Sixty hours of community outreach through the local extension office or Bartlett Arboretum is a requirement to become a Master Gardener. It is anticipated that Basic Gardening Training Classes will be initiated at Gateway in Fall/Winter 2016 for those who want to volunteer and assume more responsibility in one or more areas of the overall garden. As part of the requirements Volunteer leaders and assistants will be selected and will assume responsibility for all aspects of caring for a specific garden area (crop) with oversight by the Gateway Garden Overseer. In addition to maintaining the current garden, the possibility of a separate small “community garden” being developed is currently under consideration.
Additionally, efforts will be made to interface with the surrounding West Haven community to assist in the development of family gardens and to serve as a local resource in troubleshooting garden issues.