Supporting Growth in the McHenry County Community


What was once an area overgrown with grass and small trees has become a place of healthy habits and self-expression at the Crystal Lake Salvation Army Community Garden.

Now in its third year, the community garden is ready for gardeners once again. While it may have started small, the community garden has grown to 30 plots, ranging between 12 feet x 12 feet and 12 feet x 20 feet. “The tilled space has increased steadily as the weed trees and bushes have been removed,” says Lt. Robert Owen, local site commander. Lt. Owen is the driving force behind creating the community garden three years ago and has been its supervisor ever since.

Built From (Below) the Ground Up

The area was donated to the Salvation Army over ten years ago. At that time, it was overrun with weeds and brush until a patron suggested that it be used as a community garden for the people of McHenry County.

From there, Lt. Owen suggested the idea to Tom Dougherty, who loved it and offered to help get the garden ready. “Tom has been a tremendous help!” states Lt. Owen. Tom has been on the local Salvation Army Board for the past twelve years and is very involved in supporting the McHenry County community. He provided the essential tools to create a space for the garden, such as clearing it of weeds, bushes, and weed trees.

Tom Dougherty (pictured)

For the garden to be ready for new gardeners in the spring, Lt. Owen first makes sure that the soil is healthy enough to grow crops. Refreshing the soil is done through tilling, which turns over the garden soil to give the plants much-needed nutrients. Tom tills the garden soil before the spring season using his tractor or one that he borrows from a friend. Afterwards, volunteers separate the spaces into easily identifiable gardening plots for families. 

Garden plot #10 in the community garden

Opportunity for Growth

The community garden plots become available in mid-May and typically close after the first frost in autumn. This year’s garden plots are now open to anyone on a first-come, first-served basis.

Gardeners can plant whatever they like in their plots (as long as it is legal, of course). Feel free to grow your own vegetables, create a beautiful flower bed, or create something completely unique. There is a lot of room to express yourself to everyone in the community and grow whatever you would like.

A wide view of the many garden plots

If you live in McHenry County and would like to try your hand at gardening, this is a perfect opportunity for you! Head over to the Crystal Lake Salvation Army to get yourself a plot before they are gone!

About the Crystal Lake Salvation Army

The Crystal Lake Salvation Army is located at 290 W Crystal Lake Ave, Crystal Lake, IL 60014 and is open for anyone that needs support. They have numerous programs assisting people in need from every age and situation.

To learn more about the Crystal Lake Salvation Army and the services they provide, contact (815) 455-2769 or visit their website at