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Shared earth: Community gardens connect people, offer organic local produce

Sandi Hoover
shoover@nevadaappeal.com
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There are more than 10,000 community gardens throughout the United States, but gardeners exercise their green thumbs in them for many reasons, said JoAnne Skelly.

“Some people do not have space at home for a garden; others may prefer to garden in a more social setting. For them, community gardens are the answer,” said Skelly, the Carson City/Storey County extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.

“Community gardens are a shared experience. They are collaborative projects created by the participants who establish guidelines and procedures to ensure communal success. Gardeners share the maintenance and the rewards. The gardens are lovely to look at as gardeners fill them with food crops and flowers,” she said.

In Carson City, the community garden located east of Lone Mountain Cemetery on Beverly Drive offers 24 plots. For $10, gardeners have access to compost, tools, water hoses and their own plot,

4 feet by 16 feet long, Skelly said.

For Margo Hassler, who shares a plot with her friend Barb Taylor, the garden serves a dual purpose. Not only has she been able this year to harvest beets, carrots, red onions, onions, zucchini and tomatoes, she has made many new friends over the two years she has worked the garden.

“We only know each other on a first-name basis, but everybody is so nice,” Hassler said. “Some of the people have been doing it forever. We just started for kicks and giggles.”

The gardeners enjoy the fruits of their labor, but also share their produce with organizations such as Friends in Service Helping or with elderly residents across the street at Autumn Village who are unable to raise their own, Skelly said. A basket is provided near the front of the garden, where produce donations can be made.

“More than 600 pounds were donated last year from the garden,” Hassler said.

Hassler said she makes her own compost at home to use on the garden plot – including paper from her shredder – and she and Taylor usually tend it twice a week.

Dan Fuller, who also has a plot, said that although the rabbits likely ate his cucumber plants, he has had great success this year with artichokes. He has already harvested six, and three more are well on their way to the kitchen table.

“I just hope they’re ready by the time the frost comes,” Fuller said.

Fuller said he also grows flowers such as iris “for my girlfriends.”

All produce is expected to be harvested by Sept. 15 and the plots need to be cleaned up by Oct. 15, Skelly said.

In Dayton, the community garden didn’t get up and running this year, but Wendy Madson, manager of Dayton’s Community Roots Nursery, said the plan is to start one next year in the backyard of the community center.

Silver City, however, opens its garden to the entire community, said Quest Lakes, the Silver City Task Force leader.

“There are some people who water, someone built a composter, and people help wherever they can,” Lakes said. “But even if you aren’t working on the garden, people are invited to get things from it.”

The next order of business will be a freezing, canning and drying event, which will provide most of the ingredients for Silver City’s annual community soup dinner.

“What I like best is the process of connecting people across the ages. We have a little 4-year-old girl who comes with her grandma and we have people in their eighties,” Lakes said.