Growing a garden in Manorhaven

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Michele Rowe, Dan Murray with James Peter Associates, Erika Stehl, Nicole Asselta and Manorhaven Mayor Jim Avena at the future location of the garden. (Photo courtesy of Growing Love)

With fall in full swing and cold weather arriving, now is not the time for planting vegetables. But a group of Port Washington residents has sown the seeds for a community garden in Manorhaven that will come to fruition in the spring.

“The basic premise was to give people the opportunity to grow their own food,” said co-founder Erika Stehl. “Manorhaven is an immigrant community … and a lot of people live in apartments or don’t have access to plots of land where they can grow their own food. This gives them their space to do that and brings the community together.”

The Growing Love Community Garden was founded by Stehl, Michele Rowe and Nicole Assela. The nonprofit organization will open the garden in the spring, when 40 4-by-8-foot raised beds in boxes will be available to community members.

Stehl said she had discussed the idea for years.

“I had the idea for probably five years,” she said. “I had been volunteering at a food bank in Nassau called Island Harvest, and it kind of motivated me. So we talked to [Manorhaven Mayor Jim] Avena and he said they had space, so we went out there in the snow in January and agreed it would be a great idea.”

The garden will be on the grounds of the Manorhaven Preserve, near the Senior Center on Manorhaven Boulevard. Avena, who made land available for the garden, said he was glad to see the space being used.

“It was really a crappy looking area, so this will help to spruce it up,” Avena said. “It is a great community effort. We’ll have a lot of people who can come to the village and grow plants.”

The garden will be adjacent to the existing Long Island Native Plants Garden and Dog Park. The new garden will provide a place for people to grow, eat and share food along with lessons on healthy gardening practices.

Applications for a plot will be accepted starting on the first day of 2018 through the end of March. Following the end of the application period, a lottery drawing will be held on April 1 to determine who will receive a plot. The garden’s opening is planned for noon on Sunday, May 6.

Other local community members pitched in to help bring the plan to fruition. The land for the garden was cleared in September with the assistance of Dan Murray of James Peter Associates, who will build the boxes and fencing in the spring. Eve Peterson of Eve Peterson Designs drew up the garden plans. Stephanie Yardeni, owner of Working Dog Graphic Design, helped create the Growing Love website and local marketing consultant Amanda Khalil is leading the garden’s outreach on social media. The Dejana Foundation helped to secure a grant.

For those looking to donate or volunteer, more information about the garden can be found at the garden’s website, growinglovepw.com.

“We’ve had a lot of people doing pro bono work, which is huge because the grant money only goes so far,” Stehl said.

While excited to have a new garden in the community, Avena said he would not be planting anything of his own.

“My dad was a florist for 50 years, so I’m done with gardening,” he said with a laugh.

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