CLAYTON – Behind the Clayton Community Center, the Clayton Community Garden is thriving with life. Lush greens, fresh fruit, and vegetables, buzzing bees, and volunteer gardeners harmonize within the garden fence.
The garden has proven to be a vital asset to the Town of Clayton in recent years. The COVID-19 pandemic increased the risk of food insecurity in the community, and local Master Gardeners took action to combat this threat. In 2020, the Clayton Community Garden produced 5,751 pounds of fruit and vegetables that were donated to the Clayton Area Ministries Food Bank. This year, gardeners are expecting to produce 7,000 pounds (3.5 tons) of food for donations.
The community garden was started in 2010 by Master Gardener Roy Lewis, who passed away in 2020. The garden began as a 100 by 100-foot space and has nearly tripled in size since. Lewis is to thank for much of the garden’s success. He taught classes, advocated for the garden, and expanded this project to its current state. Master Gardeners have continued his legacy, and volunteers are currently constructing a memorial within the garden to honor Lewis.
“I am so proud of what the Johnston County Master Gardener volunteers have been able to accomplish toward Roy’s vision for the Clayton Community Garden,” said Master Gardener Felice Chadwick.
The garden is sustained entirely through volunteer efforts and grants courtesy of Blue Cross and Blue Shield. Gardeners must volunteer for 80 hours, but most people go far above that requirement. Chadwick volunteered over 600 hours last year and was named Rookie Master Gardener of The Year for her efforts.
“I really enjoy helping the Town of Clayton Parks and Recreation provide another valuable service to the Clayton area,” said Chadwick.
The garden welcomes new volunteers and makes getting involved fun. It offers a variety of classes and tours. On Aug. 8 from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. the Johnston County Master Gardeners are offering a Gardening 101 workshop.
This workshop will consist of a casual stroll through the Clayton Community Garden and the opportunity to learn about best practices for growing and harvesting fall produce, how to maintain a vegetable garden plot, when and how to plant specific crops, and how to test soil.
Children ages 4-12 will receive special instruction and demonstrations supporting a unique hands-on learning experience.
To register visit ClaytonNC.org/gardening101. Drop-ins will not be accepted.