Gardening is a break from the hustle and bustle of city life


Life on the agricultural front follows a simple pattern: Sow the seed, grow the seed, eat the seed. Its been that way for centuries, and continues to follow the same path on Jones Point in Alexandria.

Down on the point in two different locations are community gardens where residents grow everything from Big Beauty tomatoes to parsley and basil for the dinner table. Steve and Claudia Fitzgerald have been maintaining a plot for three years. Every summer, their menu consists of fresh vegetables tomatoes, peppers, beans, okra and lettuce to name a few. During the summer we eat a lot more vegetables, Claudia said. They swap notes with other gardeners on a warm summer mornings and keep up with their plot.

There are advantages to eating homegrown vegetables, especially this year. In early June there was a warning sent out about tomatoes having been contaminated with salmonella, but it didnt apply to homegrown varieties. Im assuming the ones we have are safe, Steve said.

They had a garden in their previous backyard in Waynewood, which is closer to Mt. Vernon, but there wasnt much sunlight. The community garden here is much more productive, Claudia said.

Another gardener, who gave her name as Jill, shared a plot with a friend for the last year but is not planting this year because she is moving. Jill grew vegetables and flowers. I came down with the kids, and it was great, she said. Its really a valuable thing to have as a community.

Nancy Berg, 78, grows a variety of flowers including flocks, cone flowers, hydrangea and day lilies. Shes had one plot for the past 25 years. I mainly grow flowers, my plot doesnt get as much sun, she said. At her age, its something she enjoys.

The National Park Service maintains the plots on Jones Point, but the City of Alexandria has a leasing agreement with them, John Walsh, the citys horticulturalist, said.

There are two community gardens in the Jones Point section of Old Town, and both are in the shadow of the new Woodrow Wilson bridge, which provides an interesting backdrop to the gardening atmosphere.

Once inside the garden gate, the gardeners handy man work shows everywhere. Each plot is neatly sectioned off, and many contain handmade plant support structures. There is one section where the tools are loosely kept, and several plots have sitting areas for gardeners to relax.

Walsh noted that 40 to 50 percent of the gardeners are retired. For a lot of our gardeners, its just the enjoyment of it, stress relief, he said.

The City of Alexandria does own a couple of community gardens at Chinquapin Park near TC Williams High School and Holmes Run off Duke Street. There are 150 plots at Chinquapin and 24 at Holmes Run.