New Kirk Presbyterian Garden in Full Bloom

Emily Houghton, 5, left, and her brother Aiden, 8, help their mom, Emily Houghton pick beans from a raised bed in the church’s communal garden.

Occasionally, on summer Sunday mornings, New Kirk Presbyterian Church on Langford Road offers more than salvation . . . on a table in the church’s lobby are baskets of deliciously sweet green peas, onions and other freshly picked garden produce for members and guests to help themselves to after church services.

A small donation is suggested, but not required. That donation helps fund the church’s communal garden where the vegetables are produced.

“The church garden idea grew out of our need as citizens, Christians and family members,” said Keith Frair, the church’s garden master, “to do good and share, to provide for ourselves and others in a meaningful way.”

While showing church guests around the garden following a recent morning service, Frair said the garden is part of a growing trend today to provide fresh, nourishing produce while also providing a sense of community, a satisfying union of labor and a connection to the environment.

“That’s what’s happening here at New Kirk,” Frair said as he meandered through the garden of 16 raised beds that each measure 3- by-12-feet and are laid out neatly in a 75-foot square fenced area just a few yards from the church building. Frair explained that the beds are carefully prepared with the right ratios of mushroom compost and diatomaceous earth. A newly dug water well and recently installed drip irrigation system help insure crop survival and lower maintenance requirements.

The result is a lush, green garden that produces several varieties of tomato plants, bush peas and beans, dill, basil, peppers, cucumbers, crook neck and zucchini squash and other vegetables, all grown organically without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

Naomi Houghton, 3, decides this cabbage might be too large to ‘pick.’

A butterfly garden is nestled among the vegetables and furnished with benches for those who desire to commune with nature, meditate or just watch the garden grow.

Established in 2006, New Kirk members first congregated at the new Langford Elementary school. Two years later, under the leadership of their pastor, Scott Bowerman, the congregation moved across Langford Road into their newly constructed church building. In the summer of 2010, the idea for a simple communal garden on the church grounds took root. And it’s been growing ever since.

While knowledge, expertise and manual labor are shared among the gardeners to ensure the best possible produce, the expenses and equipment for the garden have been provided by donations from all the New Kirk members.

And new ideas are always forthcoming for the garden. Come fall, the gardeners plan to cultivate a winter garden of cabbage, lettuces, collards, broccoli and other cool season vegetables.

“It’s a labor of love, dedication and community,” Frair said. “We have about 20 gardeners, but we have a church full of folks who enjoy the fruits of our labor. And that’s what it’s all about.”