Community Garden sprouts again

By: 
JENNY GESSAMAN
Reporter

Lewistown Community Garden Co-Chair Kathryn Baldwin checks her laundry-basket lettuce garden Tuesday morning.

Photo by Jenny Gessaman

A 50-by-90-foot lot has produced 3,500 pounds of fresh produce in the last three years, a number local gardeners plan to grow again this year, according to Lewistown Community Garden Co-Chair Harry Felton. He announced the lot has once again opened for the 2017 growing season.

While organizers plan to keep producing organic produce for local nonprofits, they are also keeping the garden in touch with its educational roots. Felton listed several changes community members might spot this year, including no-till gardening in two of its rows.

Felton credited agricultural education teacher Patti Armbruster with inspiring the idea. Her presentation had one surprise for him, however: Felton learned most aversion to no-till gardens comes from their looks.

“The thing about no-till is it’s mostly psychological,” he said. “It doesn’t look like the neat, tilled beds Grandma and Grandpa had.”

Despite the look, the method is good for long-term garden health, according to Felton.

“The nutrients will infiltrate by themselves,” he explained. “What we’re doing is adding more organic matter. Part of it is just building more soil layers. Don’t think of it as a short-term amendment for growth; We’re adding organic matter on top to build deeper and deeper soil health.”

Compost was another development Felton highlighted. Delivered out of Hobson, he said the material was custom blended for the garden, with one especially important ingredient.

“We’re bringing in compost that’s been specially prepared with a high biological content,” Felton said, referring to fungi, bacteria and other microorganisms confirmed in the compost.

Although you might need to be a gardener to spot those differences, Felton said even casual observers would notice another of the Lewistown Community Garden’s changes this year.

“Our cucumbers are going up on a trellis,” he said.

It’s not just the cucumbers. Co-chair Kathryn Baldwin is excited for the summer’s several trials in vertical gardening. Responsible for the garden’s annual planting schedule, she added the space-saving cultivation to 2017’s plan.

Baldwin had multiple reasons for urging plants to grow upwards, including back surgery. After her recovery, her movements up and down were limited. Regardless of the cause, Baldwin believes physical limitations shouldn’t stop gardeners, so she’s planned for the Community Garden to show how gardens can rise to meet gardeners.

Baldwin added vertical gardening could also overcome space limitations.

“People can see that you don’t have to have land to garden,” she said.

Baldwin has already created laundry-basket and a vertical-tower lettuce gardens in the plot to serve as examples. The one limitation of this method, she cautioned, is it cannot support root crops such as potatoes or carrots.

Despite the changes, Baldwin has the Lewistown Community Garden continuing work on its long-term goals, including soil health.

“We really want to improve our soil 12 inches deep,” she said. “ Ideally, when you’re planning a garden, your soil should be amended 12 inches deep for your root crops.”

Baldwin explained that depth allows for no-till gardening but also improves the soil’s retention of nutrients and water.

The search for volunteers is also ongoing.

“We’re always looking for volunteers,” Baldwin said. “There’s no commitment. We just ask people to come one Saturday, between 9 a.m. and 12, to be oriented. Then they can garden whenever they want.”

Felton agreed, saying the Lewistown Community Garden could always use more gardeners. And, he added, it’s for a good cause.

“We don’t grow food for ourselves,” he said. “We grow food for our clients. Our fundamental goal is the same, which is to raise food for the Community Cupboard, and then the Council on Aging, with anything left over going to the Boys and Girls Club.”

 

 

Looking to grow?

 

If you are interested in volunteering for the Lewistown Community Garden, volunteers meet and orientation is offered every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. You can also call Garden Co-Chair Harry Felton at 538-8422.

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