FREDERICK, Md. (AP) — Debra Hurley believes in the healing powers of gardening.
“Everything we need to heal comes from the earth,” she said.
Hurley, 41, founded the Little Garden of Eden off Bowmans Farm Road in Frederick as a way to encourage sensible eating and personal growth in members of On Our Own, a statewide support group for people with psychiatric illness.
“Just being outside is therapeutic, peaceful,” Hurley said. “It’s a wonderful thing to plant something and watch it grow.”
On Our Own members are encouraged to work in the garden with Hurley as a way to gain a sense of pride and self-worth.
“The garden is an opportunity for On Our Own members to give back to the community, to donate back to the (soup) kitchens,” Hurley said.
About 40 percent of the garden’s produce is donated to soup kitchens in the Frederick area, and the remaining 60 percent is sold at produce stands to raise funds for On Our Own.
“We’re trying to raise money for camping and fishing trips. We’re trying to get members back into nature,” Hurley said.
Produce is sold at various locations, including at the Great Frederick Fair Farmers Market on Saturdays and at the Little Garden of Eden itself.
The approximately one-acre garden is planted with everything from yellow squash to radishes to cantaloupes.
“I was spending eight to 12 hours a day out here in the beginning,” Hurley said.
Now, Hurley spends about eight hours a day, six to seven days a week, working in the garden.
“It’s a lot of work, but (the garden) provides a lot of benefits in the end for everyone,” she said.
Hurley has learned a lot about gardening since the inception of the Little Garden of Eden.
“I really appreciate what farmers do. … This garden is a small fraction of what real farmers go through,” she said.
The project began in March and is now in the middle of peak harvest. No chemicals are used on the plants.
Patrick Rollins, 53, has aided Hurley with the garden by volunteering equipment and time to the cause.
“I don’t know where I’d be without him,” Hurley said.
Hurley believes the idea for the garden was a message from God.
“(The garden) has given me an opportunity to share my love,” she said.
The land for the Little Garden of Eden was donated by farmer Eddie Mercer.
Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post, http://www.fredericknewspost.com
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)