In late September, CWEnder Katie Heaney suggested I meet her at Bell Garden to see the community garden she and neighbor Amy Lewis had recently joined. Another CWEnder, Elana Grayem, has been a member of the garden for about 10 years. Though all three have backyards, there wasn’t enough sunlight to grow much of anything edible, so they were happy to find a place to grow vegetables nearby.
Bell Community Garden, at 3751 Bell, is between Vandeventer and N. Spring in the Jeff-Vander-Lou neighborhood, close to Grand Center. In 1986, through a program offered by the City of St. Louis, Gateway Greening (which has since become Seeds St. Louis) assembled vacant lots to create the one-acre garden, the first community garden the organization started in St. Louis.
Katie, above left, is photographed with Beverly Dyson, who lives nearby and has been a member of Bell Garden for years.
Shortly after the 3 CWEnders and fellow gardener Ben Dons leased plots, Seeds St. Louis sought to find members to take over the operation of the garden, so the 4 newcomers decided to take the challenge and volunteered to manage it.In addition to 55 planting beds, the garden has a covered picnic/meeting area, a pollinator garden, chicken coop, and sheds for garden equipment. Larger beds are 5 x 20, the smaller size are 5 x 12 to 14. Depending on size, irrigated beds are $40 or $80, non-irrigated beds are $25 or $50 per season, which runs from March through October. There is a water source for non-irrigated beds.
Guidance on how and when to plant is readily available. Some members are Master Gardeners, and Seeds St. Louis also offers gardening tips.
Thirteen beds are donated for use by local groups and neighbors since, for some members, the garden is their primary source of fresh produce. Members also plant and harvest 4 large beds of produce they donate to City Greens in The Grove.
Volunteers are welcome to stop by and help throughout the growing season. Last summer a group from an investment firm that needed to perform community service came to help.
Each Spring, St. Louis City’s Forestry Division drops off soil and compost for gardeners.
Beverly, who stopped by the garden to pick greens for lunch, generously shared some of her really delicious lettuce.
After Katie showed me around while reiterating that the end-of-season garden was not as beautiful as during the summer, she stayed behind to pick late-season okra, sweet potatoes, eggplant and squash from her large plot.
For better photos of Bell Garden, visit the Instagram account which shows the garden in all its summer glory.
The biggest need facing the 4 new organizers is to find a Mobile Mini Storage Container as the shed and barn don’t provide enough security for the garden’s tools and lawnmower. They are hoping that a business would donate one or individuals would help them purchase one.
If you are interested in leasing a garden plot in 2023, applications can be submitted starting January 1. Donations are always welcome to help Bell Community Gardens grow food for those in need, and to purchase that storage container. For more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org