It’s been less than three years since Shrewsbury, N.J., residents requested a community garden, but at least 30 families are already reaping what they’ve sown. Public works would have been key to making this unique amenity possible, even if the 75x150-foot site wasn’t conveniently located next to the borough’s municipal complex.

In addition to advising on accessibility issues; traffic flow; and sun, wind, and drainage concerns, the department’s 13 employees provided the labor and oversaw others who helped.

They cleared the site and executed the design for 80 14x4-foot plots, including two that are raised so they’re handicapped-accessible. They created barrier-free walkways from the municipal complex parking lot, dug fence footings, laid sprinkler lines and hose bibs, oversaw construction of an 8-foot deer fence, and hauled mulch from the department’s recycling site. They helped Eagle Scouts build a secure storage shed for gardening equipment.

All of this without spending a penny of the taxpayer’s money. In fact, the department returned roughly $6,000 of the $21,000 in grants and seed money raised for the project.

Now that the Shrewsbury Community Garden is thriving, several public works employees grow vegetables for their own homes as well as the local food bank through Plant a Row for the Hungry, a Garden Writers Association public service program.

Residents pay $25 annually for a plot. These funds are used to maintain and replace hoses and buy common garden tools.

The garden continues to be the envy of surrounding communities.