In 2012 a group of neighbors on the north side of the City of Marietta looked for a way to improve quality of life, safety and social interaction in their diverse, shady, urban locale. Neighbors did not know neighbors beyond their immediate vicinity. Part of the neighborhood is a USDA certified “food desert” with no nearby grocery stores. The creation of the North Marietta Neighborhood Community Garden (NMNCG) changed all that! The garden is a partnership of Cobb Head Start, Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County (MGVOCC) and Keep Marietta Beautiful. The Head Start School provided the land; MGVOCC adopted the site as a demonstration garden project, providing funding and volunteers; and Keep Marietta Beautiful assists with neighborhood and school garden events. The once unused section of school playground is now transformed into a horticultural educational resource and a place where neighbors foster connections, enjoy the pleasant greenspace and have a sunny spot to grow healthy, pesticide-free food.
The community garden has grown to include twenty-four raised 4X8 beds, including two beds for disabled gardeners, four in-ground “mini-farms” for families that wanted a larger space, a corn patch, herb garden, blueberry and blackberry patches. Master Gardener volunteers help garden members with plant selection and management, organic principles and eco-friendly methods including integrated pest management. Members maintain their space and help with general garden maintenance, mowing and composting. In addition they enjoy social events such as the annual neighborhood corn boil. Head Start holds its annual Grandparents’ Day celebration at the garden.
Besides a space for the community gardeners, NMNCG serves as an outdoor classroom for approximately 200 Head Start preschoolers. It includes eleven children’s garden plots and a pergola for class instruction to reinforce natural science, math and healthy eating curriculum objectives. Master Gardeners help students grow fruits and vegetables and enjoy their harvest!
The garden boasts a large pollinator garden which attracts beneficial insects and provides a colorful display to the garden landscape. Students learn about the life cycle of butterflies right before their eyes. NMNCG is a Monarchs Across Georgia Certified Habitat, Certified Monarch Waystation, part of the Rosalyn Carter Butterfly Trail, the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge Network and the Cornell University Bluebird Nest Watch. A team of Master Gardeners and community gardeners meet on most Friday mornings to work at the site and to provide “teachable moments” for students from the school.