Coventry Collaborative Garden thrives with support from community partners
Over the past few years, neighborhoods both urban and rural have seen a renewed interest in backyard (and front yard) vegetable gardening. As the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System aims to reflect the interests of its community, gardening has become a standard program.
The Coventry Village Library is home to the Coventry Seed Library, maintained by the Cleveland Seed Bank. The Coventry Village Library also leads gardening programs for adults, with help from local experts.
“Overflowing” is the word that Maggie Kinney, youth services librarian at the Coventry Village Library, used to describe the Coventry Collaborative Garden at mid-summer. The garden occupies a space adjacent to the library, where community members have helped plant carrots, lettuce, basil, peas, parsley, chives, tomatoes, peppers, green beans and marigolds.
“This year, we’ve really had the opportunity to develop the space with permanent structural additions, thanks to a grant we received from the Master Gardeners (MG) of Cuyahoga County,” said Kinney.
Out of 33 applications, both the Coventry Village and Noble Neighborhood libraries received MG grants to support gardening programs. Noble will use grant money to support gardening programs for children and families: buying plants, enriching soil and purchasing family-friendly tools. Coventry is using its grant to construct a cedar two-bin compost system for garden waste, which will reduce its carbon footprint, provide nutrient-rich soil and serve as an invaluable educational tool.
“The garden is registered as a Cuyahoga County Community Garden through the Ohio State University Extension Program, and many of our programs have been made possible with a grant from Whole Foods,” said Kinney. “We’ve also had a lot of help from our library volunteer, Divina Koonce, who is finishing up her certification to become a master gardener.”
The library has designated gardening days for different age groups: family gardening is on Mondays, teen gardening is on Tuesdays and adults are invited to garden on Thursdays. Between 2–3 p.m. on these days, visitors can participate in maintaining the garden (weeding, watering and harvesting) and other activities, and learn about caring for a garden.
For adults, the weekly program is primarily hands-on learning; for teens, the program incorporates projects such as making wind chimes and bird feeders; and for families, the garden program offers a fun new adventure each week. So far, families have learned about the water cycle and made rain gauges, studied the color wheel using flowers, and made a “pollinator palace” (a structure made of odds and ends for insects and small animals) while learning about the role that birds, bats, bees and other insects play in growing food.
All are welcome to visit the Coventry Collaborative Garden during regular library hours. There are two new benches in the garden, which were gifts given in the name of librarian and long-time library patron Jane C. Butler. One bench features a quote from the ancient Roman philosopher Cicero: “He who has a garden and a library wants for nothing.”
Julia Murphy is the marketing and volunteer coordinator for the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Public Library System.