Master Gardener Barbara Melone wasn’t prepared for the temperature Saturday morning. It was 35 and raw, hardly the kind of day to be planting a garden. But by mid-morning she had peeled off her jacket and put aside her woolen hat. It was actually warm, maybe even getting hot.
Melone is in command of the Saints Rose and Clement Parish Garden, which she started in 2004. It’s all vegetables and it’s all-organic. It is also bountiful, having produced 2,000 pounds of onions, zucchini, beans, snap peas, spinach, squash and much more last summer. The produce all goes to the Westbay Marketplace around the corner on Buttonwoods Avenue.
Saturday was a special day and not just because Melone wanted to get a jump on spring. Parishioner Jackie Gilman, who works at Providence College, arranged for about 20 students to assist with the garden. They arrived in two groups with the first arrivals taking on the task of relocating several raised garden beds from one side of the fenced-in garden to the other. It involved a lot of digging and wheelbarrow loads, just the kind of job Melone was pleased to have young brawny students help with.
The Friars have helped with the garden for some years. They return in the fall to close it for the winter. But as Melone made clear in remarks before arming them with gloves, trowels, rakes and shovels, they have an open invitation to return in the summer and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
With beds cleared of weeds and the dark soil turned, Melone had students plant sets of onions, spinach and snap peas. With the possibility of frost – and who’s to say maybe even a late snow – she said it’s too early for tomatoes, cucumbers or squash. That’s all to come in time and finally, on Saturday, it seemed closer than later.
(Text and photos by John Howell)