Helfand Community Garden ushers in spring with plant sales

Apr 17, 2021

April showers bring May flowers, but at Helfand Community Garden, plants are already in full bloom and ready to be taken home. 

On April 17, the garden hosted its first seasonal plant sale of the year. While lines weren’t stretching to the nearby DNRT trails like previous spring sales, Board Member Marlene Holohan said she actually preferred the slower start.

“It’s definitely much calmer,” she laughed. “This is far more manageable.”

The spring sale mostly included “cool weather” vegetables like spinach, cilantro, swiss chard, and lettuce, with some flowers available. 

“The May sale will definitely have more flowers,” Holonhan said.

Dartmouth resident Jolene Palleiko said she was more than happy to deal with a little bit of rain to get some fresh plants for her home. 

“I love the seedlings,” Palleiko said. “It’s so wonderful how people who don’t have a yard can come and grow stuff here — it’s such a wonderful thing that they do.”

The South Dartmouth non-profit rents plots to people who grow their own plants — usually produce — as well as growing its own produce to donate to local soup kitchens in a large plot reserved for the purpose.

During the pandemic, Holohan said that the farm sent 2,400 pounds of produce to food banks in Westport and New Bedford.

Last year saw a big uptick in plot rentals — with all locations quickly being sold out. Holohan said she thinks many volunteers gained a “renewed interest in gardening” during the pandemic.

“It’s honestly a great way to de-stress,” she said. 

Volunteer Tori Pilger agreed. 

“It’s been really relieving to have the wide, open space,” she said. “To hear the birds chirping and all that — so great.” 

The biggest challenge the community garden dealt with last year was the drought that affected all of Bristol County. 

“I haven’t seen our bill, but we certainly used a lot of water,” Holohan said, noting that to combat the drought, gardeners brought their own hoses and used nearby spouts to irrigate the crops

There were some benefits, she noted. For instance, “less diseases were prevalent” among last year’s crops.

Moving forward, Holohan said she hopes to grow more bulk crops for the nearby food pantries — specifically more popular produce like spinach and lettuce, along with local favorites like Portuguese Kale. 

But overall, the goal remains to “harvest as much as possible.”