If growing flowers and vegetables on the lush eastern slope of Hilltop Farm appeals to you, then sign up for your own Community Garden plot before they’re all taken.
That’s according to Hilltop volunteer Joan Heffernan, who manages the garden plots with her husband Tom.
The 18’ x 25’ plots cost $35 each yearly. You can rent more than one. Just go to the “Programs” menu at Hilltopfarmsuffield.org to sign up and pay.
Plots will be ready by mid-May.
“Local farmer Ben Bielonko typically plows and furrows the plots by mid-May,” says Joan. “We want it done as close to planting time as possible to minimize weed growth.”
“Some people grow vegetables, some grow flowers and some plant a combination, but all are for personal consumption, not for commercial sale, which we prohibit,” she says. “We’ve even had people grow peanuts. Others plant vertical gardens with a fence or trellis from home. Many request the same plot annually.”
No herbicides are allowed. It’s organic gardening of annuals only, she stresses. Four rain barrels totaling 1,500 gallons provide plenty of water.
Gardens foster community spirit
Joan relishes the friendly, cooperative atmosphere in the Community Gardens. “Over the years, it’s really become a community,” she says. “We’ve all gotten to know each other. People share seeds, plants and growing information. You don’t have to know everything about gardening. People will help you. Or it can be a time of solitude. It’s evolved into something very special.”
Meet the Heffernans
Joan and Tom Heffernan are former educators who’ve managed the gardens since 2020. She taught in local schools and ended her career as a library media specialist while Tom was the principal of East Granby Middle School.
Joan spends most of her time landscaping, trimming bushes, weeding and maintaining the bird garden. “I like to be outdoors. I like to be active. It’s my gym,” she says.
Tom mows the lawns, maintains the equipment, organizes the maintenance garage and helps repair the barns and other buildings. “We always welcome new volunteers to help maintain this historical community resource,” he notes.