For the last two summers, Bob Reals and Jim Plato have had less lawn to mow.
That’s because the two Concord homeowners have turned a portion of their yards into large gardens for refugee families to grow food in.
For Plato, a 40-foot by 40-foot square in his Branch Turnpike backyard is where Hari Adhikari and Prem Khatiwada grow their vegetables and greens for the season. Reals lends out a 12-foot by 15-foot space in his front yard on A Street to Indra Dangal and her family.
Adhikari is originally from Nepal and was used to having a large garden to help feed her family. But at Morning Star Condominiums on Loudon Road, there are no gardens allowed. So one day last year, Adhikari asked Plato, who owns condos at Morning Star, if he knew a place where she could plant a garden.
“I said I have this big back yard, but it’s never been a garden,” Plato said.
Now two growing seasons later, and it’s quite the spread of vegetables.
For Reals, this is his second family to lend use of his yard to. When he got a large tree removed from his front yard a couple years ago, he thought it would be a good sunny spot for a garden – it didn’t matter that it was in his front yard.
This year, Dangal, originally from Bhutan, and her family use the garden to accompany their plot at NHTI’s Sycamore Field Community Garden Project. Reals has his own area in the backyard where he grows pea pods and tomatoes, so he didn’t need the front area – and his children don’t have time to spend planting and caring for a garden.
“They put their money and their time into it,” Reals said.
Adhikari is growing a whole array of food that makes it so she can save money when going to the grocery store this time of year.
“For two months, we rarely go to store for veggies,” Adhikari said.
She and her husband have a variety of beans, corn, squash, cucumbers, potatoes, African eggplant, mustard greens and much more. Some of the seeds came from her native Nepal.
“More than half the stuff they grow, I have no idea what it is,” Plato said. “They do all the work. Sometimes I go out and take a tomato.”
At Reals’s house, Dangal used a large chunk of the space for radishes, along with cucumbers, beans, zucchini, okra, tomatoes and peppers. At NHTI, the family uses that plot for mostly potatoes.
Both have planted flowers for a nice splash of color.
Reals first read about the community gardens in the Insider last year (see how popular we are?), and that’s when he contacted Cheryl Bourassa – who is in charge of the Sycamore Field Community Garden Project, reserved for low-income families where many refugees garden.
“I was thinking about it for a while,” Reals said.
He told her about the space and where he was located, and Bourassa had someone more than willing to garden the space last year.
That person got a spot at the NHTI location this year, so during the lottery day this year where spots are picked, Reals went down to NHTI to see if anyone wanted to use his yard. Dangal and her husband were more than appreciative of the opportunity.
“It’s not much of a front yard,” Reals said. “It’s one less piece of grass that I have to mow.”
Both Plato and Reals don’t charge anything for the land, and allow them to use their hoses for watering. Plato even had it rototilled last year when Adhikari and Khatiwada ran into a tough couple days when initially digging the area.
“Jim is gifting all of this,” Adhikari said. “He has such great heart.”
“He’s very nice to give me the garden and the water,” Dangal said.
With Plato getting ready to sell his house, he’s not sure what will happen with the garden.
“It would be wonderful if I can find someone who can do the same thing,” Plato said.
Reals said Dangal and her family can come back next year if they’d like, which it sounds like they plan to.
“Not many people would probably think about doing it,” Reals said. “But they keep it clean for the neighbors and plant pretty flowers.”
So if you have a space you’re not using, you might want to think about helping out a family.
“There are a lot of people looking for gardens,” Plato said. Five or six people asked him this year.
To learn more about the community garden at NHTI, contact Bourassa at firstname.lastname@example.org or search Sycamore Field Community Garden Project on Facebook.