SOUTH PORTLAND – A second community garden in the city is taking root, more than doubling the number of plots available to gardeners.

The Community Garden Collective has established a new community garden behind the former Hamlin School, at the corner of Ocean and Sawyer streets, that provides space for 39 gardeners.

The city operates a 35-plot community garden at Hinckley Park that regularly has a waiting list of more than a dozen people.

Helen Slocum, coordinator of the collective, said the waiting list at Hinckley Park showed there was a need for more gardening space for residents who don’t have yards or who want to garden alongside their neighbors.

Slocum and a small group of residents decided to address the need for more community gardening space by forming the collective two years ago and finding an appropriate place for the garden.

The garden began taking shape last year after the collective signed a 10-year lease with the city for $1 per year. Gardeners recently began planting for the first time in raised beds built last year by volunteers. Organizers plan to erect a fence around the garden this week and build a storage shed later this summer.

Slocum, who first experienced community gardening while living in Boston, said South Portland is playing catch-up with other communities that offer ample space for gardens.

In Portland, there are four community gardens with a total of 118 plots, as well as a 48-plot Boyd Street community garden organized by Cultivating Community. The Yarmouth Community Garden rents 130 plots.

South Portland Mayor Patti Smith, president of the nonprofit collective, said there was no shortage of interest from people looking to rent a 10-foot by 10-foot plot for $35 a year. Fees are used to pay for compost and water.

All 39 plots are rented — including two handicapped-accessible beds that sit 3 feet off the ground — and there is a short waiting list.

Three beds are being used to grow produce to donate to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension’s Harvest for Hunger program, which since 2000 has distributed 600 tons of fresh produce grown by volunteers.

“There’s nothing better than going up there and seeing neighbors chatting,” Smith said. “It’s a great community.”

DeAnn Lewis, a collective board member, said she is amazed by the wide range of people who have rented plots. Some are gardening for the first time, while others are master gardeners with years of experience. All are enthusiastic, not only about growing their own produce, but also about meeting others from the community they probably wouldn’t have met otherwise.

“It’s been really heartening to see how excited people are,” Lewis said as she stood in the garden Friday afternoon. “I feel like every time I come there’s another bed springing up.”

Collective organizers would like to create more community gardens, particularly on the west side of the city near Redbank, where many people live in apartments without yards. Slocum said that area is a particularly desirable place for another garden because many immigrants who live there are used to growing their own food.

For her part, Lewis said she would like to see more gardens to promote healthy activity and eating. One plot at the community garden will allow children to experiment with gardening.

“We would like to see children find an outlet here and get intrigued with the idea of gardening,” she said.

The collective is seeking volunteers to help with the fence raising from 1 to 5 p.m. Friday. The collective will provide lunch to volunteers, who are asked to RSVP to [email protected]

A ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the garden is planned for June 23.

Staff Writer Gillian Graham can be contacted at 791-6315 or at:

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