Education, cultivation, conservation

Nonprofit on track to bring community gardens to Bayonne

There will be a new area for Bayonne residents to grow produce locally.
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There will be a new area for Bayonne residents to grow produce locally.

At the most recent Bayonne City Council meeting on Aug. 22, officials signed off on a license agreement with the Matthews Foundation, a nonprofit founded by Bayonne resident and current school board candidate Melissa Matthews, to host a community garden project called Grow Bayonne.

The plan for Grow Bayonne will focus on a 10,000-square-foot community garden, which is tentatively slated for the northwest corner of Dennis P. Collins Park, but may end up in another city-owned location. The nonprofit organization will seek funding from a pool of public and private grants, along with local donors.

Community gardens dedicate plots to residents looking to cultivate their own home-grown produce. If they have the space, residents can create gardens on their own property.

Planting ideas 

Grow Bayonne will have an educational component as well, Matthews told the Bayonne Community News.

Classrooms are considered one of the target audiences for the project. Matthews said that, by working in conjunction with the Bayonne Board of Education trustees and teachers, she hopes that the initiative can be incorporated into the district’s K-12 curriculum.

She said that the community garden would partner with classrooms to provide lessons on plants, gardening, earth and life sciences, environmental conservation, composting, recycling, food and nutrition, cooking, and canning.

Matthews is pitching field trips, composting lessons, and classroom sessions where students could germinate seeds in the months prior to spring.

Classroom experience wouldn’t be limited to the main garden. A component of the plan involves satellite gardens throughout the city.

Matthews said that extracurricular groups and clubs for all ages will eventually collaborate on ideas for how the community garden can be used. Summer is a harvest season, and summer camps will likely work on preparing fresh produce.

The garden would be open to the public during designated hours, which are still tentative. Matthews’s plan is to schedule public visits and guided educational tours by appointment, and occupational and physical therapy when sessions are available.

Plans are flourishing

The project features three phases.

The first phase, which is slated to begin in spring, will be 3,000 square feet. The Matthews Foundation is working with a local Boy Scout. The garden will serve as a required community service project that all Eagle Scout candidates are required to complete prior to receiving the BSA’s top rank. Phase one will also include outreach efforts to schools, teachers, extracurricular clubs, summer camps, and the public.

Phase two will involve expanding the blueprint of the community garden to about 7,000 to 10,000 square feet. By the end of phase two, Matthews aims to install a small greenhouse for year-round seeding and gardening, along with a supply of take-home gardening kits.

Phase three will involve constructing satellite gardens, setting up a tool supply, installing hydroponic and aquaponic systems, and creating smaller gardens throughout the city.

Matthews said the project will take a few years. The goal is to have an area of raised garden beds ready for planting by spring 2020.

Want to get your hands dirty?

Matthews said that her organization will seek opportunities to collaborate with other groups, clubs, and individuals.

“Right now, we are collecting resumes for board positions only,” Matthews said. “We’ll have five to seven board members to help with the project. Regular volunteer positions will be available as we progress and get ready to build.”

Anyone interested in applying for a board position or in supporting the effort, should email growbayonne@gmail.com. More information will be available on growbayonne.com as the project moves along.

For updates on this and more stories check hudsonreporter.com or follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Mike Montemarano can be reached at mikem@hudsonreporter.com.