Gerald Greene has a rather large garden, not at his home, but at the community garden at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church.
"He's out there almost every day," said Peg Gerber, secretary at St. Matthew's.
"I'd been watching this plot, it was unattended. The weeds were as high as my head; it was really sad," Greene said.
The church offers plots of land for anyone to plant, tend and grow gardens. Greene started working the soil there last year, clearing out weeds and Bermuda grass, taking out a tree that was growing into the fence, and creating a corner, framed with a pallet fence, for mulch to be gathered.
"I believe in mulch," Greene said. "We needed a place for leaves to deteriorate. What I really like though, is grass clippings, because they've got more fertilizer in them, and that builds up the soil without having to buy expensive fertilizer."
Greene spends several hours each day in the garden, growing tomatoes, pumpkins, potatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, soybeans, corn, turnips, onions, sweet potatoes, watermelon and pumpkins in his patch of ground. He said so far the plants have been producing better than he expected, even those plants he was told wouldn't grow well in Kansas.
"I'm hoping I can sell enough pumpkins to buy my seed next year," Greene said.
Greene's plants are also attractive to wildlife — he has to fight deer, raccoons, rabbits, rats and voles who love to nibble on the tender greens.
"The voles are quick," Greene said. "They really are destructive. They've been eating my tomatoes on the vine."
Greene takes some of the produce home to enjoy, but the surplus is given to the Salvation Army.
Prior to his retirement, Greene was an entomologist and spent most of his life in Garden City. A diabetic, he moved to Newton to be closer to his doctors in Wichita.
"I didn't want to live in Wichita with all the crime and stuff that's going on there...we wanted a community where we could contribute back and this has sure been that community," Greene said. "I've fallen in love with the Salvation Army because they do so much without requiring much."
Greene said he has taken 40 pounds of vegetables to the Salvation Army's food pantry and will do so again in the near future. He hopes others will join him in taking advantage of the community garden and helping to care for the grounds.
"It's not too late to start a late summer garden," Greene said.
St. Matthew's Episcopal Church (2001 Windsor Drive, Newton) provides community garden plots that are 30 feet by 20 feet for $15. Two plots can be had for $25. For more information, call (316) 283-3310.