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Meet Melinda Dennis

Q. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?

I grew up in southern California and, even after all these years of living here, I’m still always ridiculously overdressed for winter. I wait expectantly for the warmer months to bike, hike our gorgeous trails, and float on the river in my 50 pound kayak that folds up like a briefcase. I love volunteering at the Watertown Farmer’s Market – it marks the start of my favorite season. 

Q. What do you do for a living?

As a registered dietitian, I offer nutritional counseling to patients with celiac disease and gluten-related disorders. When counseling my patients, I combine the gluten-free diet with the benefits of the award-winning Mediterranean Diet and lifestyle, to help them maximize their nutrition. 

Q: Melinda, you’re active in Watertown Community Gardens. What do they do? And how can someone get involved?

We’re a vibrant, growing group of people enthusiastic about promoting healthy living by growing food and improving the environment with native pollinator gardens. 

We’d love Watertown residents to join our get-togethers to green our city!  In April, all are invited to help remove invasive plants along the Watertown-Cambridge Greenway on April 13th, or tend to three of our bump-out pollinator gardens on April 14th

Also, don’t miss our annual Life Friendly Garden tour on June 23rd , where residents can visit beautiful chemical free gardens in neighborhoods right across Watertown. 

Anyone who is interested in learning more or getting involved can go to our website. All are welcome!

Q. You’ve got an incredible native pollinator garden, including a bump out. Can you talk about efforts to plant native pollinator gardens around Watertown? 

Planting strips (the area between the sidewalk and the street) and bump-outs (curb extensions) are available unused space with immense potential as mini native plant gardens. When they are planted, they can support pollinators (bees, birds, butterflies, and other insects), catch rainwater, and beautify our city. 

Watertown Community Gardens maintains several public pollinator gardens around the city, some of which are bump-outs. We are spreading the word about how easy and fun it can be. 

Although strips and bump-outs are city property, the Department of Public Works encourages planting in them. If you’d like to plant in a strip or bump-out, be sure to read the DPW’s Planting Strip Guide and call both the DPW and Dig Safe to get permission to dig. 

Q. Why does the idea of planting pollinator gardens in planting strips and bump-outs light you up? 

It might feel like a small act to plant a patch of native plants in front of where you live. But if the idea catches on, imagine strip after strip blooming with native plants that provide food, shelter, and nesting areas for the pollinators, and natural beauty for all of us. 

Lucky for us, native plants are typically more tolerant of the tougher climate in New England, and particularly the harsh conditions along the street. Think snow, ice, salt, and drought. They often tolerate poor soil and require less water after they are established. This is good news for gardeners of any (or no) skill level. 

If you pass by the Hosmer School, you’ve probably seen the bump out garden I planted two years ago as a novice gardener on the corner of Boylston and Hosmer.  I felt so happy when the plants grew, and then came back the next year. And I loved the opportunity to meet and make friends with so many neighbors. I really love being outside in the garden!

If you’re considering planting a native pollinator garden in your strip, here is my recent presentation on how to get started. Also, Grow Native Massachusetts and Go Botany (Native Plant Trust) are two excellent resources. 


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