By Karen Clifford
GRANGER — The community of St. Pius X gathers for spiritual nourishment at Mass during the celebration of the Eucharist. With the establishment of the new garden area at the church, parishioners will be able to experience physical nourishment from the produce they harvest, and sensory pleasure from the smells and sights of the beautiful foliage that is planted.
The concept of a church garden began two years ago with ideas from Master Gardener and St. Pius X parishioner Fran Gerbasich. With the assistance of fellow Master Gardener and parishioner Mike Skoczylas, several designs were prepared for the garden. In September of 2009, a design was selected and approved by pastor Msgr. Bill Schooler.
The 80 x 60 garden (a total of 4,800 square feet) was first cleared of debris and then staked out. Fill dirt was brought in by a local nursery and leveled twice by parishioner Joe Fodrocy. Next came the building of the 36 raised garden beds with the assistance of fellow St. Pius X parishioners David Bullard and Bill Weiger.
Gerbasich notes the benefits of raised garden beds. “Raised beds improve drainage, the soil warms up faster and is less compacted, there is less bending, it is a better use of space, and it is easy to trellis to any height with fence or climbing device.”
Bullard recalled the reasoning behind what size each bed should be. “We went with eight feet by four feet. With eight feet you don’t have to cut anything. We made the raised beds four feet wide because it’s ergonomic for humans to reach two feet into the raised bed. We went 10 inches high instead of 12 because 10 inches was cheaper. You have to think about stewardship.”
After the treated lumber was stained, the process of putting the pieces together began. Weiger recalls that the first day of the process was slow with only six wooden bed forms being completed. The remaining 30 were completed with an “assembly line” operation to finish the project within three or four work sessions.
Before putting the bed frames in the garden, fabric weed barrier was placed over the entire garden and secured. After the frames were positioned, top soil was placed in 23 of the beds to secure the weed barrier. With the help of parishioners Andrew and Kelly Roy, pea gravel was placed around the bed frames for the same purpose. Additional pea gravel and top soil for the remaining bed frames will be added before seeds are planted in the spring.
Parishioner Samuel Horvath is starting vegetables from seeds in his home prior to the spring planting in the garden beds. The seed plantings are part of Horvath’s work towards his Ad Altare Dei religious award for Boy Scouts.
“I have about 100 seedlings for the garden started. There are several varieties of tomatoes, peppers, broccoli and cauliflower in the mix. I started planting them in mid February. The seedlings need to be checked and watered about three times a day,” he says.
Flowers can be planted with vegetables in the garden beds. Gerbasich stresses growing flowers along side vegetables optimize space and are beneficial to neighboring plants. Additionally the cut flowers from the garden can be used to decorate the altar.
Interest in the garden in the local area has resulted in an invitation for St. Pius X to join Unity Gardens and Community Gardens of Michiana.
Supervision of the garden will be under the direction of St. Pius X parishioners Don and Melissa Harty. For those who have signed up for a garden plot, suggested rules for the area have been discussed. They include gardener’s responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of their garden plot, the care of their garden at least once a week, any children being accompanied and supervised by an adult at all times, harvesting only vegetables and flowers from their garden, and clearing their plot of all plant material at the end of the season and leaving the plot as they found it in the spring.
Future ideas for the garden area include a statue in the center of the garden along with seating. Skoczylas suggested a compost area, a walking path with patios, grills, and trash barrels, for family use and picnics, and hedge and ornamental grasses dividing the garden from the street to provide safety and privacy.
There are also plans to incorporate educational seminars about gardening in the shaded area in the center of the garden. Last fall, a bulb planting demonstration, with 300 bulbs, was held for parishioners. Skoczylas and Gerbasich hope in the future St. Pius X School children will be able to learn more about gardening by observing the planting, growing and harvesting of produce and foliage in the church garden.
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