DOBBINS HEIGHTS — The community garden has taken root on Page Street, with neat rows of young tomato, squash and corn sprouts poking through the dirt early Monday morning.
Community leaders planted the first seeds Thursday and returned on Monday to add more corn, butter beans, string beans and peas to the garden. But Councilmember Angeline David is still trying to save room for some of her personal favorites: jalapeno peppers and okra.
David said four people came out to help plant the seeds the first day, but as many as 10 came out Monday — which she sees as a sign that the Unity in the Community committee is making an impact.
“[Ten people participating] will make a garden go if we can keep it going,” David said. “I’m really appreciative of this happening … It’s good to have people out here on this nice morning.”
The town tapped onto water from the city of Hamlet last month, which was the last step to putting seeds down.
The group of start-up gardeners was led Monday by Edward Tender, who said he was raised on locally grown food and has been gardening his whole life.
“Who would dream of Dobbins Heights having a community garden?” Tender asked aloud to no one in particular. The group talked about the old days when growing your own food was the primary way of feeding your family before people had food stamps and fast food.
“That’s how everybody ate,” Tender said. “We were gardening to survive. It’s something we should go back to. It was healthier eating back then.”
Tender and Varneice Morrison, another of the more experienced gardeners, demonstrated to the others at the garden how to plant the seeds: drop three in each spot to increase chances that one of the seeds is female, which are the only ones that can produce; chop a cover of dirt over the seeds with the hoe; and pull up any nutgrass you see along the way.
Nutgrass is a weed that “chokes the growth” of the plants around it, explained Morrison, 56, formerly of Scotland County but now a Dobbins Heights resident. Morrison said the garden will help both the younger and older generations learn a new or forgotten skill, and connect them with the food they eat.
“When you grow it yourself you know what you’re eating,” Morrison said.
Tender’s younger brother, Henry Morrison, said life wasn’t easy when gardening was an essential part of daily life, but added the struggle of waking up early to tend the garden “made you a better person.”
Teresa Smith heard about the garden through word of mouth and decided to volunteer. She said the difficulty of learning what plants grow during what season and how to take care of them as they grow was interesting to her.
“I think it can show people that you can put (a garden) together and make something grow and that’s what it’s doing,” Smith said.
Ozie Felder, 71, a town councilmember in the early 1990s and lifelong Dobbins Heights resident, said he remembered the days when gardening was the way of the world.
“I would love to see it come back,” Felder said, adding that he considers himself a “vintage person.” “It’s just a pleasure within yourself to see gardening.”
Asked if he thought gardening would ever be valued like it used to be, Felder said, “Maybe it’s possible.”