Gardener Story: Kentucky Garden Gail Long/Joan Maguire

Ohio City

Imagine an earthen, rectangular impoundment approximately 40 to 50 feet tall stretching from approximately West 38th to West 32nd Street, bounded by Franklin
Avenue on the north. A pumping station located at the end of West 38th Street brought the water up from Lake Erie and pipes delivered it to the west and east sides of town. A promenade was built on top of the impoundment which residents of the surrounding neighborhoods used to enjoy views of the lake and city. This promenade became known as Fairview Park. The reservoir became too small to meet the needs of the city and was replaced by two others located on the east side. After the land was leveled, it sat vacant for quite a while. The city eventually developed the area into a park, which it named Reservoir Park. However, the area's residents named it Fairview Park, as it is known today. Fairview Park included a field house with showers, toilets, a wading pool and small meeting area. This field house is the current tool shed for the garden.

During the period around the Depression and World War II, the Board of Education for the City of Cleveland decided to incorporate a horticulture program into its curriculum. A portion of Fairview Park was set aside for the program.

Kentucky Gardens is the second-oldest community garden in Cleveland, the oldest being the Ben Franklin Garden. For the past ten years it has been run as an organic garden. Today there are 155 plots gardened by 133 gardeners. A plot is 20’ X 20’ big. The first plot a new gardener is given is 10” X 20’ if the gardener is successful and returns for a second year he/she is given a full size plot. The cost of having a garden is $12 per year.

Everyone is also required to perform community service in the garden. This could involve mowing the lawn, tending the communal perennial flower gardens, maintaining the paths or compost heap, servicing equipment or teaching a workshop. There is currently a waiting list for garden plots. You do not have to live in the neighborhood to be part of this community garden. The rules include no stealing of other gardeners produce, no chemical fertilizers or pesticides and weeds are to stay within the gardeners own plot.

Visible growing in the middle of May are artichokes, comfrey, snap peas, numerous beds of garlic and onions, tomatoes, oriental poppies, irises of all colors in bloom and many other plants. The neat rows and organization of the garden become evident when walking up and down the paths. Some of the gardeners use plastic covered hoops to extend the growing season. This enables them to grow lettuce, broccoli, Swiss chard, onions and garlic into the winter. Note the beautiful iron gates to the garden as you enter. These were made by Steve Jordan and Cis Ricchuto. Gail Long, Joan Mcguire and Mike Mishaga spend many hours managing the affairs of the garden so things run smoothly.

“Why the name Kentucky Garden? Unlike today's modern system all streets in the city used to have a name. West 38th was formerly known as Kentucky Street.”