It won’t be that long before the first signs of green start to appear. For gardeners who want to grow their own food but need more space, they might find one option particularly intriguing – a community garden.
If the idea of a community garden speaks to you , now is the time to sign up. No, it’s not too soon.
Some gardens are already on a waitlist with possible openings advertised in late winter or early spring. Participants generally are asked to pay a fee and are expected to keep their plots in good condition, meaning weed free and contained within garden parameters. Many gardens also organize donation programs in conjunction with local food banks or other charitable organizations so that excess produce doesn’t go to waste.
Community gardens offer a number of benefits. For food lovers, it’s a chance to get hands-on experience with producethey love. People can experience how to grow food, what boosts yields, differences with heirloom seeds, and a variety of flavors. Food is more nutritious and the act of gardening itself can be peaceful.
All gardens are not the same. It’s important to find one that’s right for you.One resource is Community Gardens, an area nonprofit focused on sustainable agriculture. They support more than seven community gardens, including the 200+ plots in North Boulder and 40 plots in Louisville. Community Gardens also hosts agriculturally supported classes, programs, donation platforms, and private events.
There are a number of community gardens in the Boulder County area. In Longmont, at least three are available, Longmont Community Gardens at the fairgrounds, Alta Park community gardens run in conjunction with the City of Longmont and The Longmont Community Foundation, and Second Start community garden. In Erie, there is the Kenosha Farms Community Garden with approximately 30 places, in Lafayette, and the Wilson Community Garden, a larger garden with nearly 80 spots.
Full disclosure: I’ve been part of the Kenosha Farms Community Garden for the past several years. I’ve grown things I never expected including sunflowers, heirloom tomatoes, pie pumpkins and beans, edamame , cauliflower, rainbow-hued corn that was stunning and delicious, and Carolina reaper peppers which were surprisingly prolific. Next year, I’m considering growing viking potatoes that I’ve tried at a farmstand. They’re more mineral tasting with an interesting profile.
Each year, I’ve found Kenosha Farms to be a place of production and of peace. I’ve also connected with other gardeners in a way I didn’t expect. We’ve had great conversations while working, or in some cases procrastinating, from weeding and organizing plants that run amok. I shared what I’ve learned and asked lots of questions. We shared produce, opinions and sometimes stories.
Being part of the garden, I also connected with my family in ways I didn’t expect. They helped me select and harvest what I grew, and this year when we got a bumper crop of peppers, we experimented with drying them to create spice blends.
In the end, being in a community garden was as much of a food experience as any restaurant excursion can be. That makes sense, given that it has all the elements of fine dining: flavors, nutrition, and seasonality . They are more than just a place to put some seeds in dirt and save on your grocery bill.
If you’re considering joining one, don’t hesitate. Sign up and get digging.