Plants prove popular at Helfand Community Garden

Apr 27, 2019

On a breezy, sunny Saturday, Helfand Community Garden kicked off its season with a successful spring sale, welcoming visitors to purchase plants or check out the gardens.

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.

Elizabeth Winiarz, a Helfand volunteer and plot renter, just joined the board this year.

“I actually have four plots, so I have quite a big patch,” she said.

It’s her third year renting at Helfand.

“Really, I grow enough vegetables to sustain myself right through from about July through November,” she said, adding with a laugh: “I almost don’t buy anything, because I have such a variety of plants that I put in.”

Helfand garden plots are ten feet by twenty feet. With her four plots, Winiarz can grow plenty of veggies — but she doesn’t sell any of the produce she grows.

On Saturday she was there to help out with the sale.

“I just recently retired, so I’m just able to be here during the daytime. So I’ve been labeling all of the plants,” she said.

She added that the sale was going “wonderfully.”

“I think we’ve already surpassed our sale last year, and we still have two and a half hours to go,” she said.

It was Helfand’s seventh annual spring sale. On offer were early spring plants that are able to withstand cooler temperatures, such as strawberries, onions, and a variety of greens.

The greenhouse sheltered neat rows of lettuces, brightly colored swiss chard, and some hardy herbs, like parsley.

Another sale for warm weather plants will take place in May.

“The sale has been great,” said Helfand board member Marlene Holohan. “People know that they’re supporting both the gardens and the soup kitchen.”

The soup kitchen garden is full of staple veggies like onions, potatoes, peas, and asparagus. There are also a lot of strawberries.

“We’ve got quite a few strawberries, because I just feel that brings joy to people’s lives,” Holohan laughed.

Some of the plants are covered with fabric to protect them from the biting wind, as well as insects — the garden doesn’t use any chemical pesticides.

But it still produces a lot. Holohan said that last year they donated over 1200 pounds of fresh produce to soup kitchens in New Bedford and Fall River.

“Our main mission here is renting plots to gardeners to grow whatever they want — whether it’s flowers or vegetables and stuff,” Holohan explained. “And the soup kitchen just kind of became this side passion for people.”

In a plot several yards behind the greenhouse, Helen Montague and Betsy Keady were planting.

This is the third year the friends have rented a plot at Helfand.

“It’s fantastic,” said Keady. “Their mission is awesome.”

They’ve both moved to condos in Dartmouth and don’t have yards of their own to garden any more, so they found a spot at Helfand and haven’t looked back.

“Marlene’s a genius,” Keady said.

Montague agreed: “We do whatever she tells us.”