The Troy Senior Community Gardens, on South Boulevard, didn’t open this summer because of the COVID-19 virus.

The Troy Senior Community Gardens, on South Boulevard, didn’t open this summer because of the COVID-19 virus.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

Troy gardens will bloom again in 2021

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published August 11, 2020


TROY — Jeanne Reynolds, of Troy, likes to grow a variety of organic vegetables in her plot at the Troy Community Garden at Troy Farm, on South Boulevard.

Frankly, she said, the stuff she grows is “far superior” to anything she can find at the supermarket.

“We enjoy colorful and tasty vegetables all year, thanks to my large freezer,” Reynolds said in an email. “It is unfortunate we can’t have a garden on our property due to the wildlife, lack of fencing and a north-facing backyard with no sun.”

But this year, Reynolds and other patrons of the senior-run garden plot at the farm didn’t get the chance to plant their annual harvest, because like so many other things, COVID-19 forced the garden to shut down.

Reynolds said she was extremely disappointed the gardens didn’t open this year, when so many others did.

“A quick Google search reveals that community gardens across the country are open with social distancing guidelines and added safety precautions,” Reynolds wrote in her email. “I’m curious, did the city government not trust citizens to follow simple health protocols or were they unwilling to provide sanitation supplies to support gardening practices?”

Reynolds specifically cited the gardens at Bowers Farm, which have been open during the summer.

If you ask Elaine Bo, the director of recreation for the city of Troy, none of those reasons were behind keeping the garden’s gates closed this year. It was a matter of directive from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

“These are actually senior gardens, not community gardens. On May 20, the city of Troy made the announcement that it was cancelling all senior programming for the summer,” Bo said. “Not until we’re in phase six of reopening, really, are seniors encouraged to engage in normal activities.”

That’s different from places like Bowers Farm, a property of the Bloomfield Hills Schools district, which are open to the community but not aimed at serving senior citizens.

Even in an outdoor setting with additional sanitation resources, Bo said, the garden plots are about a foot apart, making it tough to keep gardeners 6 feet apart at all times.

Not to mention, the program — which has been around for more than 30 years — takes quite a bit of prep work every year to get up and running in the spring, from staking to seasonal cleanup. At the time when all of that would have been going on, the state was in a full shutdown.

“By the time Whitmer reduced those restrictions, we had already refunded people who were registered for the program. Even if we could open, getting things planted and growing in the middle of July isn’t really (possible),” Bo explained.

Instead of scrambling to make the second half of the summer happen at the gardens, Bo said, the city is using the opportunity to do some housekeeping at the site.

“It’s our intent to bring it back next spring, given there are no new changes. But when it opens every year, it never really gets a rest,” she said. “We have some capital improvements we’d like to make, and we’re presenting that to council soon. So, hopefully, we can get that done.”

Among the items Bo hopes to tackle are new tilling on some of the raised beds, rototilling plots using a tractor-mounted tiller, reshaping garden pathways for improved walkways, cart pulling and wheelbarrow pushing, composting at newly developed plots on the east side of the garden, and more.

Though she was upset, Reynolds used the closure as an opportunity, too. She tried out some other recreation programs this summer, like a painting class in nearby Rochester.

“I’ve also planted a few pots on my deck, which are filled with kale and lettuce. My tomatoes and squash have been tasty treats for the deer,” Reynolds said.