News From Terre Haute, Indiana

April 14, 2013

United Hebrew Congregation stages gardening resource fair

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — If you’ve never tasted fresh Swiss Chard, a leafy vegetable in the beet family, you missed a good chance Saturday afternoon.

Swiss Chard was just one of several home-grown plants on display at the United Hebrew Congregation’s gardening resource fair outside the Temple Israel synagogue on South Sixth Street.

Swiss Chard is a “much under-utilized vegetable,” said Patti Weaver, a member of the Vigo County Master Gardeners group and head of the Indiana State University community garden. Cooked or raw, the vegetable is delicious and full of nutritional benefits, she said offering samples.

Weaver was growing her Swiss Chard in a tiny plastic food container probably originally made to hold a sandwich. In the same container, she was growing basil and pepper plants.

“It’s just a greenhouse on a miniature scale,” Weaver explained. Once the plants outgrow the food container, they are transferred to recycled plant containers and then to the ground, she said. Weaver was also growing tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce and spinach in her display.

“It’s all about growing your own food,” she said.

Other exhibits at the gardening fair included a display about native trees by Stephanie Krull, landscape and grounds manager at ISU. Krull was also giving out free tree saplings to anyone willing to plant and care for a new tree.

The fair was a way for the United Hebrew Congregation to give something back to its immediate neighborhood, said Debra Israel, a UHC board member and an organizer of the gardening fair. The fair also provided a way to share information about gardening with the broader community, she said.

Also at the fair were displays on gardening for people with accessibility challenges and a large sample of plants provided by the White Violet Center for Eco-Justice, a ministry of the Sisters of Providence.

Meanwhile, ISU graduate student Heather Foxx was offering free soil lead testing to anyone interested. Foxx, a student in the Department of Earth and Environmental Systems, is also working with the Terre Haute Department of Engineering to test soils in the city’s parks, she noted.

Because of its heavy industrial past and other factors, Terre Haute has significant levels of lead in the soil, Foxx said. Still, there are ways to create a safe urban garden even after lead has been discovered in the soil, she said.

“There are ways to deal with it,” she said.

For those with even fewer square feet of garden space available, Katie and Richard Baumann were demonstrating “vertical farming,” a dirt- and weed-free way to grow plants of all sorts, indoors or out.

“We were growing our own food all winter long,” said Katie Baumann standing next to a tall tower designed for dirt-free gardening. “It’s a very cool concept.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or arthur.foulkes@