Administrators are expecting to fill the 60 garden plots available to township residents as part of the Community Gardens project this year, which is being offered for the first time.
The gardens, which are located at the Howland-Sloas Nature Preserve, 3938 N. River Road, consists of 31 200-square foot plots, and 29 400-square foot plots already have been claimed by nearly 40 residents with more requests each day, according to Township Administrator Darlene St. George.
''We're getting a total cross section of people of all ages,'' St. George said.
One young man told administrators that he wanted to plant gardens because his father always had gardens, St. George said. Another gentleman took three plots just to plant food he plans to donate to local food banks, and another plans to donate all of the produce to a church, she said.
There is currently no charge for the garden plots.
''We're learning as we go,'' said St. George. ''We hope to make the project better every year.''
If there is a charge in the future, St. George said, it will be minimal and only to cover minor maintenance costs.
A parking lot has been constructed at the garden site to accommodate gardeners. The Public Works Department will be preparing the garden plots, which have been mapped and labeled for residents to choose their locations. Gardeners will likely be able to keep their same plot from year to year if they choose.
When registering for a plot, residents are given a list of guidelines and rules for maintaining their garden plots. If a plot has been neglected or abandoned, gardeners will be sent a notice giving two weeks to clean up the area or the plot will be reassigned or tilled. Other guidelines include: not planting tall plants where they can shade another garden; not using fertilizers, insecticides or weed repellants if they can affect other gardens; and keeping trash and litter cleaned up from plots and adjacent pathways and fences. Gardeners are advised not to bring pets to the garden area, and only biodegradeable mulches are allowed.
The guidelines also list problem plants that should not go into the gardens because of their growth habits. Plants prohibited include mints, Jerusalem artichokes, comfrey and horseradish.
The gardens are located within the nature preserve consisting of 120 acres purchased in 2002 by the township with funds made available from a grant through Clean Ohio. The land can never be developed for commercial use. Half of the preserve is wetland areas and township officials are hoping to eventually plant a community orchard on the west side of the garden area.
''We knew all along that we wanted that area to benefit our residents,'' said St. George.
Anyone interested in learning more about the community gardens or in securing a garden plot is invited to attend a public meeting at 33:30 p.m. April 21 at the township administration building. For more information, call the township administrator at 330-856-2340 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.