Community gardens continue to grow in popularity around the country, and for many gardeners, it is more than just a hobby; it is the enjoyment they receive from being outside in the fresh air, getting dirty and seeing their hard work produce quality, nutritious food. These are just a few of the benefits Maj. Eli Bressler, Avionics Integrated Products team lead for the USMC H-1 Light/Attack Helicopters Program (PMA-276), discovered after digging into the Naval Air Station Patuxent River community garden.
“This is a really fun place to hang out. It’s nice and quiet,” Bressler said.
Bressler started his garden three years ago after seeing a Morale, Welfare and Recreation flyer on base. This year, he decided to go bigger and rent three plots, hoping to create a larger garden with the help of colleagues at PMA-276.
“A lot of people seem interested. I picked this spot because it’s in the shade, and if you stop by after work, you’re avoiding the direct sunlight,” Bressler explained. “Everything people need is here for their use.”
The horticultural hobbyist has already done the brunt of the work. Bressler installed all the fencing and buried it to keep out the local wildlife. He set-up a sprinkler system and chopped down nearby bamboo to make a lattice for climbing plants including cucumbers.
“I wanted to make something cool. If you dream it, we can build it,” he said.
This somewhat “secret” garden is poised to yield hundreds of pounds of fruit and vegetables. Bressler is planning to donate all the fresh produce to a local food bank.
Bressler has planted more than 40 tomato plants including both grape and Roma varieties, more than 30 pepper plants and a couple hundred onions. There are also zucchini, squash, cabbages, corn, watermelons, cantaloupes, peas, green beans and beets. But there is plenty of room for more.
“There are no rules for gardening. Something here won’t work and that’s OK. We’ll just plant something else,” he said. “We’ll have two seasons. In the middle of summer, we will plant a second round of vegetables that do better in the fall. People can plant anything they want.”
Keith Olson, PMA-276 Sensors Deputy Assistant Program Manager for Logistics, stopped by to see Bressler’s green thumb. Olson gardens at home but on a much smaller scale.
“I would love to come out and give him a hand because this is too much for one person,” Olson said.
If gardening does not interest his colleagues, Bressler said, there are other things they can do.
“I need help decorating. I want this place to be beautiful. Kids can come out and put up a scarecrow. Your imagination is your limit,” he said.
Olson said this is a great opportunity for anyone in the PMA. “It’s free, it’s exercise and you’re performing a good service.”