GrowingCommunity: WeTHRIVE! in Reading’s Garden Club

This is a guest post from Annie Hess, a member of the WeTHRIVE!℠ in Reading team.

At the end of last summer, our WeTHRIVE! team began talking about forming a garden club in Reading. Many of us have an interest in vegetable gardening, street trees, flowers, community gardens and much more.

We wanted to create a subgroup of WeTHRIVE! in Reading that could focus on all things plant-related, but we didn’t think the name “garden club” really encapsulated what we were hoping to accomplish.

So much of what WeTHRIVE! does is based on building a sense of community and we wanted the garden club to reflect that, while also encouraging people to become healthier.

GrowingCommunity (GC) is the name we came up with to cover all the bases of community gardening, composting, street trees, garden art, pest control, seedling tips—pretty much anything you can think of.

GrowingCommunity meetings are held on the second Thursday of each month. Although we wanted to invite speakers to come to our meetings, we realized that we actually had quite a lot we could learn from each other! So members can sign up to host a meeting on a topic of their choosing or a home garden tour. Otherwise, we find a speaker to join us that evening.

Guest speakers share their knowledge

Our WeTHRIVE!/Hamilton County Public Health representative Alex Gonzales put us in touch with Tony Staubach, who runs Wasted Food Stops with Us, an initiative of Hamilton County R3Source. He presented at the Deer Park Library about composting and community gardens.

We also had Nan Matteson, president of the Greater Cincinnati Dahlia Association, speak to us at Koenig Park about the 80+ year old organization and all the varieties of dahlias (way more than you think!). Attendees even got their own tubers to take home and plant!

Touring home gardens

One of the treats of GC is the members’ willingness to invite us to their homes for a Home Garden Tour.

When we visited the Zander family’s garden (pictured at the top of this post and in the slideshow at the bottom of this story), Mary Zander explained that “we are passionate about doing what we can to help decrease our footprint, by starting to use the small amount of land we have to grow as much food for our own family as we can.”

The Zander’s story is a good example of the vastness that lies within GC. While many members enjoy ornamental and pollinator gardens, others are working to establish compost bins, rain barrels, and grow native plants. We are all learning from each other and finding out that every little bit helps, not only to lead healthier lives, but also to build a stronger community.

Five adults in a backyard garden that has flowers and vegetable plants.
GrowingCommunity visits the home garden of Michael Pickett in Reading.

Michael Pickett, long-time Reading resident and retired chef, invited us into his home to learn about greenhouses and container gardening.

It was a great lesson in learning about the versatility in gardening. Just because your home doesn’t have ideal conditions for growing plants in the ground it shouldn’t scare you off from getting started! Some of Michael’s herbs have been thriving in pots for more than ten years!

The night was capped off with delicious food made with items from his garden. (You’ll find more pictures of Michael’s garden in the slideshow at the end of this story.)

Members of Reading's GrowingCommunity garden club looking at a raised garden bed.
GrowingCommunity members visited the home garden of Alyse & Danny Capaccio, where they sampled freshly harvested peppers, tomatoes, and figs.

At our most recent meeting, Alyse Capaccio gave us a tour of her garden, but also spoke of all she’s learned about understanding the microclimates in one’s yard. Her home is situated in such a way that there are three tiers and each has a different environment for growing plants.

It was neat to see the different ways Alyse and her husband Danny have used trial and error to figure out how to work with their yard, rather than against it. We were also encouraged to try the fresh peppers, tomatoes, and even figs from their garden! (See more photos below.)

Continuing to grow

The future is bright for GrowingCommunity. We’re slowly getting the word out to more of our neighbors.

One of our newer members, Jennifer Powers, heard about us when her dad struck up a conversation with a GC member at a city council meeting. He thought this was something she’d be interested in and we’re grateful that he passed it along to her!

Jennifer says, “The group is about more than just sharing ideas about our own gardens, but also talking and learning about how building a greener, healthier environment can benefit our wider community.”

We couldn’t agree more and look forward to growing the group and our gardens in the months to come!

Headshot of Annie Hess.

Annie Hess lives in Reading with her husband and four kids. She joined WeTHRIVE! in Reading in 2019. The highlight of her garden this year is the acorn squash (featured in the slideshow below!). 

  • Acorn squash plan.
  • Four halves of cooked acorn squash just out of the oven.
  • Home garden, dog, and woman.
  • Multi-colored flowers growing mostly in pots behind a house.
  • Small greenhouse in backyard.
  • Large pot with flowers in a garden behind a house.
  • Woman talking next to plants growing alongside a house.
  • Young girl in vegetable garden behind a house.
  • Adults looking at home garden located alongside a driveway.