March 2019 Park Angels of the Month: Amanda and Walter Barton
Amanda and Watler Barton are staples of Medway Community Garden. In fact, were it not for the campaigning and organizing of the Bartons there might not be a community garden in this James Island park.
Amanda, a landscape architect, and Walter, a real estate agent, have been advocating for developing Medway Park since moving to the neighborhood almost thirty years ago. In 2013 a group of neighbors began advocating for a community garden in the park and Amanda became the liaison for the James Island neighborhood. “Most neighbors don’t have backyards in this area so Medway Park made perfect sense to be the backyard for the neighborhood,” Amanda said. “I became the point of contact to get a community garden in this park and I began speaking to Jim Martin (the director of programming at the Charleston Parks Conservancy) to help fundraise for the project.”
Then, in the winter of 2015, Medway Community Garden officially opened with 60 garden plots available for public lease. Back then Amanda and Walter shared that they had no true experience with vegetable gardening, aside from a low-maintenance lemon tree and cherry tomato plant at home.
“Our first year gardening we had seven successful spinach plants and this year we only have three,” said Amanda. “Your success will waiver, but you’ve got to stick with it. I tell all the new gardeners: don’t get discouraged!”
“It’s lots of fun and a challenge at the same time,” Walter shared. “Our first year we started with transplants in our garden and today we try to grow all of our vegetables from seed, and the amount of vegetables you can grow is incredible. One year we grew 150 eggplants from just seven plants. You can grill them, bake them or put them in a curry. From that experience, I would encourage gardeners to plant what you like to eat a lot of!” Walter added with a smile.
Today their two plots contain bundles of lettuce, kale, bok choy, brussels sprouts, and more cilantro then they can eat. “We love to share our vegetables with our neighbors and friends in the community garden,” said Amanda.
Since planting their vegetables the Bartons have excelled at seeding their plants through the seasons and thinking through an entire year’s worth of planting. “Figuring out the succession of plants through the seasons is the most difficult part, but when you figure it out you’ll never have an empty garden,” said Walter.
The Bartons employ several vegetables preservation techniques, including dehydrating, freezing, and dry oven baking for a number of vegetables including chives, cilantro, peas, spinach, beans, radishes, oregano, tarragon, and sage.
“This place has brought together neighbors from Johns Island to James Island and we are thrilled about the success of this park,” said Walter. “It’s just a delight to grab kale and lettuce off my bike. This place is such a joy.”