LIVING SUSTAINABLY: Six things to know about the coziest garden in Holland
By Savannah Weaver, Community Garden Director
Hollanders know that Windmill Island Gardens is home to extensive spring tulip displays and America’s only working antique Dutch windmill. However, fewer may be aware that since 2016, we’ve been putting our own unique spin on the community garden – a chance for anyone in the community to learn about and grow their own fresh vegetables.
Growing our own vegetables is a significantly sustainable practice. It gets our hands in the soil and connects us with Earth. Community gardens make efficient use of space, provide access to a low-cost, sustainably-produced source of healthy food, and decrease reliance on commercially-grown produce that might have a large carbon footprint and could be sending money out of the community.
Here are six things to know about Holland’s own community garden:
1. We’re beginner-friendly. Although experienced gardeners are welcome, our program is designed to teach newcomers all they need to know to grow their own vegetables. Anyone with a plot in the garden also gets access to biweekly garden skills classes. Classes cover basics like fertilizing and controlling pests, as well as garden-adjacent topics such as preserving and cooking with vegetables. The first class is April 29.
2. We put the “community” in “community garden.” The name of the garden, de Gezellige Tuin, is Dutch for “the cozy garden” – a name that represents the warm and welcoming community we aim to establish. Participants are encouraged to share everything from tips and ideas to extra seeds and produce with the garden neighbors they’ll get to know quite well after a summer of classes and other events. Additionally, Windmill Island staff is frequently on hand to give advice and answer gardening questions.
3. We’re affordable. The cost of supplies can often seem daunting to would-be gardeners. De Gezellige Tuin removes this barrier by providing community tools and equipment. We also offer our participants free starter plants and seeds of some of the most popular vegetables to grow in our region. The fee for participation is only $30, with financial assistance available to those in need.
4. Location, location, location. Windmill Island’s famous tulip fields look stunning in the spring but used to lay fallow after the tulips finished blooming. Now our community garden makes use of that otherwise unused space. The result? An efficient use of land, and a vegetable garden with fertile, well-maintained soil flanked by beautiful landscapes and the iconic de Zwaan Windmill.
5. We’re all in this together. De Gezellige Tuin is supported by local businesses such as Van Wieren Hardware and Wolverine Tools, which have donated equipment, and De Bruyn Seed Co., which supplies starter seeds. We give back to the community as well, by donating the harvest from a staff-tended demonstration plot to the Community Action House’s food pantry and partnering with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Holland to give high school Club members an opportunity to learn gardening skills.
6. Space is limited; sign up now. Just 36 garden plots are available, and the first class is April 29, so sign up soon. To learn more about de Gezellige Tuin or apply for a plot for the 2017 season, email Savannah Weaver at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (616) 355-1032.
Savannah Weaver is director of the de Gezellige Tuin community garden program.
IMAGES: Courtesy of Savannah Weaver.
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ABOUT THIS SERIES
Living Sustainably is a collection of community voices sharing updates about local sustainability initiatives. It is presented by the Holland-Hope College Sustainability Institute, a joint project of Hope College, the City of Holland, and Holland Board of Public Works. Go to www.hope.edu/sustainability-institute for more information.