The last time Donna Klippert had a big garden was 40 years ago.
She then scaled down to a smaller garden before just growing some vegetables in pots. Unfortunately, neither of those worked out too well.
“I put a little one in the ground that was about 10 feet long in front of my patio, but the moles always kept getting underneath, and I never got anything out of it,” the Seymour resident said.
“So after three years, I gave up on that and started putting them in pots,” she said. “But the pots don’t give enough root, so the food I get is small.”
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When she learned about the Seymour High School FFA and Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce offering a community garden at Margaret R. Brown Elementary School across from where she lives, she jumped on board.
“I’m really thrilled about having some real ground to put it in,” she said.
The organizers of the garden conducted a three-hour kickoff event Saturday, giving people in the community a chance to rent a garden plot to grow flowers and vegetables. They could bring their own seeds or plants or purchase some grown by Seymour students.
“Our goals today are just to get everybody excited about gardening and take it off, help people maybe learn where their plots are and just help them get started,” said Barb Cummings of the chamber’s environmental committee.
Cummings said the project started last year after seeing big community gardens in Columbus and Bloomington. But it began late in the season here and didn’t go as planned, so they are hoping for better results this time around.
The cost is $10 for a 10-by-20-foot plot or $20 for 20-by-20, and there is a maximum of four plots per person. Cummings said 25 of the 60 plots available are rented, so there are still plenty of opportunities for local residents to get involved.
“A lot of people like the organic-type foods, and more and more people are getting interested in growing their own things,” Cummings said.
“There are a lot of apartments close by here that won’t have the space for a garden, or maybe people that live in neighborhoods not even close to here maybe don’t want a garden in their yard. When they are out here, they just have a lot of camaraderie.”
The garden will be open during daylight hours every day through Oct. 24.
Plants must be annuals, and no herbicides or pesticides are allowed since the garden is on school grounds.
Seymour Community School Corp. provided the grounds for the garden and helped put up fencing. Cummins Inc. Seymour Engine Plant helped measure out the plots, and Best Way Disposal was a financial contributor.
Jeanna Eppley, agriculture teacher and FFA adviser at Seymour High School, said it was nice to have the school corporation and Brown Elementary on board with the project.
“It’s something the kids can see and have a part of the school but also have that outreach into the community and get people here to work on some stuff,” Eppley said.
“The school put the fence up, and they really invested in getting this started up so they can see this become a part of the community.”
Eppley had her students involved by growing their own plants in the school’s greenhouse and then selling them to the public.
“It’s a hands-on learning tool, so the kids can see the germination rate and they see the plants start to grow,” she said. “Then we transplant them into larger pots, and then there’s the sale and marketing of all of those things.”
Wanda Bobb of Seymour bought a variety of tomato plants from the Seymour students Saturday, and her 8-year-old granddaughter, Taylor Blair, helped her plant them.
“She likes to grow stuff, so we decided it would be the thing to do, and we didn’t want to till up our yard,” Bobb said.
Taylor said in the past, she has grown flowers, including lilacs, sunflowers and elephant ears.
“My favorite part is watching it grow, not doing all the work,” Taylor said, smiling.
But Bobb said it’s good for Taylor to learn about gardening at a young age.
“I just think it’s better for her to be out doing stuff than sitting in the house playing video games and watching TV. It’s a hands-on thing,” Bobb said.
Eppley agreed that gardening is a good activity for kids and their families.
“It’s one of those initiatives that people need to get out and get moving, get away from TV and video games,” she said.
“They can bring their family. This can be a family project and teach the kids to work together as a team and have something to benefit from it — fresh fruits and vegetables for your meals.”
Klippert brought her own seed packs, which she bought last year for three cents apiece, and planted them with the help of her neighbor, Richard Aydt.
She said she is excited to see what comes of her garden.
“I just hope I get a little bit off of everything,” she said. “I was hoping to have a little to give to my kids and grandkids. I’ve got two daughters and five granddaughters and four great-grandkids that live nearby.”
She said she’s considering getting them involved in helping her manage her plot.
“They planted a flower at school, and they were so thrilled with watching it grow,” she said. “I thought if they come over here and see food growing, a lot of kids don’t even know where food comes from.”
Klippert said she hopes more people take advantage of the community garden.
“I hope it spreads,” she said. “I think everybody should be able to grow some of their own food, just for the joy of it and for saving money. It just plain saves money.”
The community garden is next to Margaret R. Brown Elementary School, 550 Miller Lane, Seymour.
Cost is $10 for a single plot (10-foot-by-20-foot) or $20 for a double (20-by-20).
Gardening will be allowed until Oct. 24, and plots are accessible from dawn until dusk every day.
For information or to reserve a garden plot, call the Greater Seymour Chamber of Commerce at 812-522-3681.