On Friday, April 9, Verona cut the ribbon on its first community garden. Located on the grounds of H.B. Whitehorne Middle School behind the municipal parking lot, the garden has been a joint effort of the township, Sustainable Verona and Verona Environmental Commission volunteers, with backing from Sustainable Jersey, the PSEG Foundation, the Landsberger Foundation, the Board of Education, the Junior Woman’s Club of Verona and the Verona Education Association. The Community Garden Committee set up the planting beds with help from Chuck Molinaro and George Zhender, respectively the superintendent and supervisor of the Department of Public Works, and the entire DPW staff, who handled the site prep and bed construction process. The garden is surrounded by tall fencing to keep deer out.
Planting beds will be assigned to community members after a lottery on Thursday, April 15. Winners can begin planting as soon as they turn in their signed contract. No pesticides or harsh chemicals may be used in the garden, and bed owners must keep their plots weeded and make sure their plants don’t spread beyond their beds. There will be helpful growing guides posted in the garden and Rutgers-certified Master Gardeners will be at the site on many days to answer questions. Some of the beds will be used as teaching gardens for public and private school students in Verona. There will also be frequent workshops and learning opportunities for the community beyond just the garden members.
The Community Garden Committee includes Kari Baureis, Frank Ceccacci, Sara Drappi, Kelly Drury, Chrystine Gaffney, Steven Neale, Teena Schwartz and Carol Thomas. You can follow their work through their website or Facebook page. If you don’t win a garden bed, or simply want to garden at home, the Community Garden Committee has posted a gardening guide.