Thursday, June 23, 2016

Community Gardening in the Mountains by Ginger Baer

As a home gardener for many decades. I have grown flowers, vegetables, herbs, bulbs, fruit trees and just about anything else that will grow when placed in the earth. I am joining our local community garden for the first time. This garden is for vegetables and it is in the mountains at an elevation of 9,000 feet. There are many good reasons to grow in a community garden. Mine were purely selfish. I have raised beds for my home garden, but have run into some soil problems in the past 3 years. At first I thought that I had herbicide contamination from some purchased manure. The problems started that year.  Things just would not grow. Seeds would not start and already started plants would not grow. They just sat there, as if they were dormant.
I did the “bean test” this spring. That is where I dug up some soil from the garden to start some bean seeds in pots indoors.  I did this side by side with some bean seeds started in potting soil.  The beans in the potting soil grew more vigorously than the one’s in the garden soil, however, the beans in the garden soil grew adequately, and did not show any curling that one would expect to find if the soil had herbicide contamination.
So, for now it is still a mystery. I am trying to grow in my raised beds again.  But I am also trying to grow in my community garden plot. Additionally, I have planting boxes on my deck where I am growing the same things that I am growing in my raised beds and in the community plot. Scientific approach to see where things grow the best. Thus, my reasons for growing in a community garden are purely selfish. Purely scientific
…or so I thought…
Just after 2 weeks of being in the community garden I find that I am connecting with people I have never met before. Guess what? We have common interests. Conversations flow about gardening techniques and experiences. A few of us have started e-mailing one another with different ideas of what we can do for our gardens. Some people are pulling together, as a community, to get some of the weeding done in the common areas.  One person was given permission to start a cutting garden in one of the unoccupied plots, and she is now enlisting help from the other gardeners who might be willing to donate seeds or starts for these flowers. We are starting to be a community. CSU Extension – Gilpin County has a test plot in the garden as well.  They are testing various new varieties of potatoes from the San Luis Valley.

There are many reasons to have a community garden. Here are a few:
• Community gardens increase a sense of community ownership and stewardship.
• Community gardens provide opportunities to meet neighbors.
• Community gardens offer unique opportunities to teach youth about:
 Where food comes from
 Practical math skills
 The importance of community and stewardship
• Studies have shown that community gardeners and their children eat healthier diets than do non-gardening families.
• Eating locally produced food is said to reduce asthma rates, because children are able to consume manageable amounts of local pollen and develop immunities.
• Community gardens add beauty to the community and heighten people's awareness and appreciation for living things.
·Community Gardens are a good place for extension offices to both teach and learn about various growing methods as well as to test grow various varieties of goods.

Test Potato Plot just starting to grow.

So far most of the gardens are thriving. There are different styles of gardening. There is a hoop house with a cover to protect against the intense sun and winds (and possible some hail). There is a garden with a 4 foot frame around it with poly carbonate clear sheets attached which will also give wind protection.  Many people using floating row covers. These give the seedlings a chance to establish before critters (voles, chipmunks, squirrels, deer etc.) get to them.  The youth camp is growing in individual intensive small squares with raised sides in their garden. They call it a “waffle garden” because the squares resemble the squares of a waffle.  Most people, at this elevation, start growing mostly cold weather vegetables, such as lettuce, kale, peas, chard, radishes and carrots.  Some of the ambitious are trying beans, squash, cucumbers and tomatoes. I am excited to see how all of these gardens grow and which techniques work the best.

Two views of the Gilpin Community Garden. What a beautiful spot!

So far we are having fun and learning from one another. Maybe as we get braver and better growing at this altitude we can spark some interest and have displays at our county fair at the end of the summer. Maybe a community garden potluck could be fun? Who knows where this might go? In the meantime we will just keep on growing!

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