Volunteers gathered to paint, assemble and install plot boxes, in addition to doing general maintenance and beautification.

The Rotary Club of Westchester improved Orville Wright Middle School’s student garden

By Nicole Borgenicht

Every two years, the Rotary Club of Westchester chooses a Makeover Project.

This year’s selection is the Emerson Avenue Community Garden (EACGC) at Orville Wright Middle School.

This plan signifies an education on organic and sustainable gardening, along with easy access for 28 student and 37 community garden plots.

“The original garden had mulch and uneven urbanite (repurposed chunks of concrete) pathways that were difficult to navigate for people with physical/mobility challenges,” said Tom Johnstone, past president of the Rotary Club of Westchester and co-chair of the Makeover Project.

The Westchester Rotary director for the EACGC Makeover Project was Warren Bobrow with strong support from Edgar Saenz and Johnstone. They met with EACGC and at least one attended 20-plus volunteer days. Bobrow utilized their budget working with EACGC to arrange materials delivery and waste removal.

“Our goal was to make the garden more beautiful and more accessible to the entire community as an attractive green space,” Johnstone said.

“The members did most of the work initially and students from WISH Charter Middle School maintain the north part of the garden where they have 28 small garden plots. “

Everyone will have access to the garden, but gardening will be limited to the plot holders and the WISH Charter students.

The Orville Wright students will have access the garden for outdoor science lessons.

The garden is completely organic. There are no chemical fertilizers and water is by hand only, thus limiting excess use. The EACGC has classes on water-wise use, backyard bee keeping, vermiculture (worm composting), as well as hot and cold composting.

“Part of our mission is to provide education programs for the community,” said Dorothy Stone, EACGC president. “Right now, we are undergoing a major renovation to make the garden more accessible. Once that is done and COVID restrictions are lifted, we will welcome the community back to the garden as visitors.”

Plot holders decides what to grow and performs their own weed management. The garden grows a medley of fruits, vegetables, a beneficial variety of flowers and native plants. From watermelon to pumpkins, squash, cucumbers, and tomatoes, EACGC is there to monitor. The master gardeners who have completed the program at UC Davis will provide advice to plot holders and students.

“WISH parents work with the students and teachers in the student garden,” Stone said. “Our master gardeners offer advice and assistance.”

Johnstone added, “We participate in all weekly meetings and provide advice, but all the decisions are made by Emerson Avenue Community Garden leadership. We admire and respect the amazing things that they have done with the garden and appreciate the opportunity to serve the garden and the community.”

Due to COVID-19, students have not participated. Nonetheless, in August, the Makeover Project was set in motion for the 28 student garden plots.
They installed grading, a weed barrier and garden soil to prepare for new planting.

Even though the garden is not in full use, the Makeover Project has aligned numerous facets of the garden for successful seasons.
Once safety is secured, students will return to gardening in accessible, green-systemized plots.

For more information Visit rotary-westchester.com and eacgc.org