Posted Online: May 02, 2014, 4:50 am

Silvis Methodist's community garden keeps growing

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By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com

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Photo: Todd Welvaert / twelvaert@qconline.com
Children from Christ United Methodist Church in East Moline help work in the Silvis Methodist Church's community garden on Tuesday, April 29, 2014. The Silvis Community Garden grows produce for local food pantries and rent plots to other local gardeners. Pictured from left are, back row: Harrison Keag, 3, Brady Keag, 5, both of Moline, and Hannah Birkland, 3, of Port Byron. In front are Andrew Birkland, 5, of Port Byron, Lilyan Powell, 4, of Moline, Dawson Hull, 4, and Grady Hull, 6, both of Colona.
SILVIS -- Not even a scarecrow has helped keep an eye on a community garden overseen by Silvis United Methodist Church.

"It's been pretty much me," church member Dan Thorngren said.

But help's on the way, he said.

A mothers' group at Christ United Methodist Church in East Moline has agreed to work with their kids to care for two of the 10 plots devoted to providing fresh produce to local food pantries.

Mr. Thorngren, 76, will tend the other eight food-pantry plots, each of which measures 10 feet by 20 feet. The garden, at 5th Street and 2nd Avenue, also has 34 plots rented to community members, with two people on a waiting list at Silvis City Hall, 121 11th St.

People pay $20 to rent a plot, but money can be reimbursed at the the end of the season, or donated to the church, as many people have chosen to do, he said.

The community garden is in its fourth year. Mr. Thorngren said the 2012 season was the worst because of drought conditions, but "last year was great."

About 2,600 pounds of fresh vegetables were given to two East Moline food pantries -- one at Christ Methodist and the other one in the Watertown area.

More help will mean a lot to Mr. Thorngren, particularly when harvesting cucumbers and squash, he said, adding that tomatoes always will be the most popular.

They plant six varieties of tomatoes, nine varieties of onions, seven varieties of kale, six varieties of lettuce and five varieties of radishes, as well as cucumbers, cabbage and eggplant.

Something new this year was a Burpee's On-Deck Corn, Mr. Thorngren said.

Mr. Thorngren notes on a calendar when different seeds need to be planted in order to hit their peak growth during the June 28 Silvis Garden Walk.

Church members collected 300 empty toilet paper rolls for Mr. Thorngren to use to plant bunch onions. He puts dirt and a dozen seeds in each roll and plants them in the ground.

"What surprises me the most is how much the city of Silvis has helped us," he said. For example, the city has given him access to a nearby fire hydrant to water the garden.

He's also "made my pitch for Gauley Field" as a perfect community garden site. The athletic field across from George O. Barr Elementary School in Silvis was sold to the city for $10 earlier this year.

"We've also talked about putting fencing around the community garden," but it would have little success battling deer, the biggest garden pests he's seen, Mr. Thorngren said.

Hoof prints through the garden proved his point that deer, not rabbits or crows, were more of a problem.

"And you can't fence out deer," he said. Nor would a scarecrow help that much to deter deer.