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MONROE, NJ—The Garden State offers community gardens with free or low cost access for the public to enjoy the outdoor scenery and practice their green thumbs, including many right here in Middlesex County.
Monroe Community Garden is one example: a two-acre, 176-plot garden located at 124 Applegarth Road.
Its latest addition is a 15-by-30 foot greenhouse and wetlands meadow.
The new greenhouse provides an opportunity for members to grow produce and plants that would otherwise not survive New Jersey’s harsh climate.
The $25,000 greenhouse, which opened in 2019, was made possible through generous donations from the surrounding communities, including a $10,000 grant from Northfield Bank and over $5,000 from local businesses including Costco, Roma Bank, K. Hovnanian Homes and BCB Community Bank.
Plots are available for a $30 annual fee by contacting Gary Busman, Friends of the Monroe Township Community Garden Treasurer, at email@example.com.
The Friends of Monroe Township Community Garden is the organization set up to supervise and manage the garden.
“I think we’re a unique organization because we have so much support from the community,” said Busman. “The town has really went above and beyond for us. From the mayor to the business administration to the Department of Public Works and local donations, no other community garden receives that kind of support.”
Master gardeners and staff are available for patrons to assist with plots.
“We want to give people a better understanding on how to garden. There’s no problem here we can’t fix,” said Joel Greenberg, Vice President of the organization.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, safety measures have been implemented such as providing members with sterile soil and seeds.
“This is a way to prevent disease that would come from using existing plants or vegetables,” said Jerry Levine, a board member with the organization.
According to board members, the Monroe Gardens is also involved in giving back to the community by donating food. They try not to let anything go to waste and have some garden plots set aside just for donations.
Members also donate their leftovers to organizations that combat food insecurity, including the Monroe Pantry and The Middlesex County Food Organization and Outreach Distribution Services (MCFOODS).
Lisa Pollitt is a graduate of Monmouth University with a B.A. in Mass Communications. She is a licensed NJ skin care specialist and makeup artist. Her hobbies include freelance makeup artistry, writing and photography.