Growing flowers and fellowship

Conservancy creates community garden


Green-thumbed village residents will find a new place to gather and plant on Saturday, when the Rockville Centre Conservancy unveils its first community garden.

It is located at the junction of Jefferson Avenue and Water Street, on a plot owned by the village that has been deemed unsuitable for construction. Normally, it would be sold to neighboring landowners, but in this case the Conservancy has been granted use of the land by the village, and received initial funding from the Molloy Sustainability Institute.

The Conservancy hopes to build up to 16 4- by 8-foot beds on the property. Six were built last summer in order to test the growing area, and the Conservancy wants to build another 10 this Saturday. The beds will be rented out annually — first-time renters can expect to pay $100 per plot, and prices will be reduced next year. The fees will be put toward the purchase of lumber, water, soil and compost and the construction of a communal tool shed.

Prospective gardeners have high hopes for the plot, which receives more than six hours of sunshine a day — more than enough to sustain garden beds with flowers and vegetables. The Department of Public Works, which will help prepare the area, plans to install a gate in the chain-link fence that surrounds the property and to remove a sapling that’s now in the growing space. Department workers will also install an irrigation system.

“Our hopes are to give the residents of Rockville Centre an opportunity to engage with nature and grow fresh produce for themselves or to share, and at the same time provide an opportunity for positive social interaction,” said Maggie Gray, the Conservancy’s master gardener. “We want to give people a chance to get their hands dirty and to grow community alongside vegetables.”

Gray, a horticulturist with Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Long Island Children’s Museum, will spearhead the project for the Conservancy. She said she hopes to use some of the money raised from plot fees to fund an expansion of the project in the future, including new community plots and classes on topics ranging from gardening to beekeeping.

Parts of the community are involved in the project in other ways. Local Girl Scout troops plan to make a sign for the garden, and to collect gently used tools for the communal shed. Mayor Francis Murray’s Youth Task Force built the six raised beds and four benches already in the area. But there is much work still to be done: Weeds grow in much of the plot, the fences are in need of repair and the beds still need to be filled, mulched and planted.

Ten plots have been claimed for this year, but six are still available for rental. To request a plot, follow the Conservancy on Facebook, or email Gray at or with any questions.

The groundbreaking ceremony is set for Saturday at 10 a.m.