Edible Forest Garden Continues To Evolve At Berlin Park

Edible Forest Garden Continues To Evolve At Berlin Park

BERLIN – The edible forest garden at Stephen Decatur Park continues to take shape as volunteers prepped the patch of ground for winter this week.

The garden, located near the park’s pond, was planted early this year under the guidance of Assateague Coastal Trust (ACT). It’s currently filled with things like radishes, blueberries, goldenrod and the like.

“We’ve developed this as a multi-year project,” said Matt Heim of ACT. “Once it gets established, it’ll be here for years to come.”

Heim first presented town officials with plans for the garden last fall. He said the edible forest garden would feature seven layers, like a forest, and would eventually include tall trees as well as shrubs (like blueberries), vines (like grapes) and roots (like onions). Eventually local residents will be able to visit it and pick produce.

With the help of students from Stephen Decatur Middle School, ACT and volunteers from the town’s parks commission planted the garden in the spring. This week, a new set of eighth-graders from Stephen Decatur Middle braved chilly temperatures to prep the garden for the coming winter. Volunteering at the garden will enable the students to meet their annual service learning requirements.

“Today we’re cleaning it up a bit and throwing down mulch to sit there over the winter and break down,” Heim said.

The students were also tasked with preparing a nearby piece of ground for a future wildflower garden.

Heim said that aside from the fact that the edible forest garden would eventually produce food for the community, it would provide various benefits to the environment.

“It incorporates native plants and provides great habitat for insects and birds,” he said. “It’s a complex plant system so it does a lot of great things for the soil.”

Mike Wiley, chairman of the town’s parks commission, said he was thrilled to have the support of a community organization like ACT and volunteers from local schools to help with the project.

“We’ve had a lot of kids help through the years,” he said.

Heim said that by participating in projects like this one local students enhanced their understanding of the environment. He says his organization has made a habit of working with Stephen Decatur Middle students on aspects like rain gardens and stream cleanups.

“I think the kids get a lot out of them,” he said.

He says that along with the actual work in the field, ACT provided the students with a classroom lesson, too.

“We try to explain the ‘why’ which I think goes a long way,” he said.
While Berlin’s garden will only be entering its second season in 2017, it will eventually have a variety of produce to offer. Heim says once it has been in place for five to 10 years it will be at its peak.

“There’s a lot of work on the front end with researching and planting but once it’s established it takes care of itself,” he said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.