By Hannah Devlin
For the past five years, the Growing Love Community Garden has served Port Washington residents. The garden not only serves as a connection to nature, but serves as a way to connect the community and support each other.
The garden opened in May 2018 after a number of Port Washington residents decided to come together and create an outdoor space that would support its community.
Erika Stehl, president and co-founder of the Growing Love Community Garden, said that the inspiration for the garden was the idea of healthy and home-made food.
“I always grew up with gardens,” said Stehl, “and I was always surprised that we didn’t have more of a community garden presence here on Long Island.”
Stehl has lived in Port Washington for the past 24 years, and after taking a trip to California in 2017 and seeing the flourishing community gardens on the West Coast, she became determined to build one in town.
Over the next few months, Stehl–with help from other town residents–formed a not-for-profit organization, received a grant, designed the space and hosted a kick-off event. Finally in May 2018, the garden opened for planting.
With so much economic diversity in town, many town residents do not have access to their own outdoor space. The Growing Love Community Garden attempts to bridge this gap and allow every resident the experience of having their own plot to grow on.
The garden consists of 46 plots that are loaned for three years at a time, but volunteers are welcome to help build, harvest and clean up regardless of whether they own a plot.
However, the garden’s outreach did not stop there. Throughout the past five years, the garden has continued to grow, as seen by the expansion of the Memorial Garden and the Children’s Garden. Additionally, there is a vertical garden that grows food and herbs that are donated to the food pantry at Our Lady of Fatima Church.
“Our mission is connecting our community to healthy food, nature and each other,” said Stehl.
In addition to the physical expansions of the garden, the garden has introduced a number of events intended to support the community. With collaborations with businesses like OhMyGoodness, Bach to Rock and Be The Rainbow, the garden aims to support local businesses and give back to the community. These events are open to anyone who registers, not just plot holders.
“[The events are] really about connecting to the community and supporting one another,” said Stehl.
Located on Manorhaven Boulevard, directly behind Our Lady of Fatima parking lot, the garden serves as an oasis on a bustling street. Despite the busyness that surrounds the garden, the space allows its patrons to connect with nature and the environment.
From its inception, the Growing Love Community Garden has been a true community effort. With the help of friends, residents and volunteers, Stehl has been able to make her vision come to life and provide Port Washington with a unique and intimate outdoor space.
For anyone interested in donating to the garden or requesting a plot, more information can be found at www.growinglovepw.com.