Lake Norman & Mooresville

How does your garden grow?

Connie Beach was on her hands and knees in some dirt on the corner of Catawba Avenue and Potts Street when a couple of curious onlookers pulled up on their bikes.

"What are you doing?" they asked.

"We're building a community garden," she responded.

So the folks put their destination on hold, hopped off their bikes and pitched in.

The residents of Davidson are already putting the "community" into the town's first community garden.

The idea got rolling last year, when those involved with Davidson United Methodist Church's garden club began to brainstorm the idea. They talked about it with other local congregations.

They came up with a philosophy - one big garden for one big town.

"We didn't want having or not having money to be a factor here," said Beach, who serves as the project's coordinator. "We wanted it to be tended by volunteers, where you could stop by, do some weeding and take some produce."

Their motto became, "Tend Some, Take Some, Share a Lot."

Their first step was acquiring the land. Mayor pro-tem Margo Williams suggested the 150-foot by 50-foot foot lot on Catawba and Potts, which was owned by Davidson College but had been farmed by a gentleman who was no longer able to tend it.

The college agreed, and DUMC became the leasing agent.

Matt Hickey, who runs the organic gardening company Grow it Greener, stepped in as a guiding hand. "Matt knew exactly what to plant, where to plant it and what we needed," said Beach.

One half of the garden is raised beds while the other half is row gardening. It will include corn, melons, beans, lettuces and other produce. Betsy Seymour has already edged the space with flowers.

"I'm hoping this will be a good learning experience for all of us. This garden will serve the community seven to eight months out of the year, and many of us aren't familiar with how to plant summer and fall crops. I think people will learn how and say that they can do this in their own backyard."

Beach said now is the time when they need volunteers the most. They hope to form 12 "green thumb crews," with eight to 12 people on each. When it's the crew's week to work, they'll tend to the space three times a week.

"We hope to really match up people on the crews with others they may not know, and help people make new friends. I think a garden is a really good meeting spot, and I've already met so many people I normally wouldn't have. It's an opportunity to really bring the people of our town together," said Beach.

Many people have stopped to lend a hand.

Some Davidson College students in Dr. Shireen Campbell's English class were learning to write for nonprofits, so four of them created a brochure. Other students, interested in local food, have stepped in.

At the end of each day, volunteers will take the extra produce and donate it to Loaves and Fishes. The organization often doesn't receive fresh fruits and vegetables, so Beach is hoping the donation will boost the diet - and spirits - of the receivers.