Tom Regan, who spearheads the Royal Oak Community Garden Club, points at a bee that landed on a marigold in a garden as fellow club members Amanda Herzog and Josh Wright watch.

Tom Regan, who spearheads the Royal Oak Community Garden Club, points at a bee that landed on a marigold in a garden as fellow club members Amanda Herzog and Josh Wright watch.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Royal Oak Community Garden Club looks to future growth

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published August 27, 2021

 A broccoli plant yields its crop at the Royal Oak Community Garden Club’s pilot plots at First United Methodist Church Aug. 20.

A broccoli plant yields its crop at the Royal Oak Community Garden Club’s pilot plots at First United Methodist Church Aug. 20.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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ROYAL OAK — A newly formed group called the Royal Oak Community Garden Club is celebrating the success of its pilot plots at First United Methodist Church in downtown Royal Oak.

The group, which has its roots as an ad hoc committee of the Royal Oak Environmental Advisory Board, is planning an increase of activity in the spring. If all goes to plan, a grassy area on the west side of the Churchill Community Education Center will serve as a community garden.

The group has received support from the Royal Oak Schools district and hopes to involve residents of all ages and backgrounds in the pastime of tending their own gardens.

Tom Regan, a member of the EAB, has been spearheading the initiative since the formation of the ad hoc committee in 2019.

“Royal Oak has got a great tree canopy, but that makes it really hard to grow vegetables,” Regan said. “There’s a real finite amount of land that gets full sun.”

Josh Wright, a member of First United Methodist Church and the Community Garden Club, helped facilitate the two pilot gardens on the Lafayette Avenue side of the church.

“It gets lots of sun. The land used to have a house on it, but it hasn’t been used for anything since the house was torn down at least 10 years ago,” Wright said.

The church offered a budget to help fund the program, which went to purchase soil, compost, tomato cages and other items, and Wright said volunteers were able to secure donations of plants. The raised beds have been fruitful, with an inaugural yield that includes broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers and sweet peppers.

Wright added that the addition of marigolds serve as a natural deterrent to keep the gardens free from pests or vermin.

“It’s been going really well, and we’ve had no trouble getting volunteers,” he said. “It’s a wholesome family activity. It’s brought people together in a time when, in Royal Oak and around the country, people are pretty divided.”

Amanda Herzog, chair of the EAB and a member of the Community Garden Club, said the Royal Oak Department of Public Service budgeted $10,000 in its capital improvement plan for the cause. She added that the group hopes to offer community garden programs and classes  in partnership with the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The plan, she said, is to offer fenced-in, raised garden beds with a nearby water hookup for a nominal fee that individuals would be responsible for maintaining.

During the Aug. 9 Royal Oak City Commission meeting, approximately a dozen members of the group wearing Royal Oak Community Garden Club T-shirts gave a presentation about the group and its hope to secure further support from the city.

“I give two green thumbs up for a Royal Oak community garden. … We would really like to grow,” Kathy Guest said at the meeting. “If you have a tolerance for extreme positivity and lots of compliments every time you go out there, this is the project for you.”

Guest said she was involved in successful community gardens at Royal Oak Middle School and Oak Ridge Elementary School and it was “very, very rewarding work.”

During the meeting, Herzog said the initiative aligns with the city’s long-term goals of sustainability and its climate action plan, which is currently under development.

“We would like to see these in multiple neighborhoods in Royal Oak, supporting the 20-minute neighborhoods where you can get everything you need in a walkable 20-minute radius of your home,” she said.

Herzog added that the group would like to encourage education and mentorships among students and youth, with multiple master gardeners among its ranks who are willing to volunteer their time and expertise.

First United Methodist Church is located at 320 W. Seventh St., north of Lincoln Avenue.

The Churchill Community Education Center is located at 707 Girard Ave., near Rochester and 13 Mile roads.

For more information or to join the group, visit the Royal Oak Community Garden Club on Facebook. As of press time, the group had nearly 200 members.

To join the mailing list, visit www.royal-oak-community-garden.mailchimpsites.com.

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