Last chance to reserve a plot in Frisco, Breckenridge community gardens
Reserve your plot
Plots are still available in the Breckenridge Community Garden at Colorado Mountain College, 107 Denison Placer Road in Breckenridge, and The Living Classroom Community Garden adjacent to the High Country Conservation Center offices, 518 Main St. in Frisco. Enrollment for new gardeners runs through Thursday, April 30. Apply for a community garden plot by visiting http://www.summitgardennetwork.org/community-garden-plot-application and clicking on the garden of your choice.
Curious about procuring a High Country Conservation Center community garden plot but unsure about whether you want to make the commitment? Read through these basic questions and answers, and then visit http://www.summitgardennetwork.org for additional information, Web resources and garden applications.
How do I get started?
Before submitting an application, determine how much time you have to invest in your garden, and choose a team with similar growing goals to help you care for it. Each plot has a designated plot holder, who can list two additional gardeners to share responsibility for the plot. Gardens must be kept tidy and free of weeds and harmful insects, or the plot holder risks forfeiture of the plot without refund.
“I thought, doing this myself is going to be a tough job. I visit my mother and my family a lot in addition to all of the work that I’m doing,” said Butch Elich, who applied for his first plot in The Living Classroom Community Garden in Frisco last year. He enlisted the help of a family friend, Doreen McVay, who lived near the garden, and though McVay had zero gardening experience, the two made a go of it.
“She said, ‘I’ve never done a garden, I don’t know what to do — what if I ruin something?’” he said. “I said, ‘who cares?’ I said, ‘I can’t be there all the time, and you walk by there twice a day. If it’s dry, water it; if it’s ripe, eat it — you’re going to really enjoy this.’”
How much does it cost?
Gardeners pay a plot fee, which covers overall maintenance, water bills and other garden expenses, such as community tools, liability insurance, garden coordination and general operation. A single plot at The Living Classroom and Breckenridge Community Garden locations is $100 up front, $50 of which is a deposit that can be regained through 10 volunteer hours with HC3. A double plot at either location is $150, including a $50 deposit for 20 volunteer hours, which can be worked off in a number of ways, said Jessie Burley, community programs manager for HC3.
“We have opportunities at the gardens themselves — steering committees might schedule a garden work day, where you weed, repair plots, fix the pathways, maintenance issues,” she said. “HC3 also needs volunteers throughout the summer at events — Frisco BBQ, Breck Beer Festival, Keystone Bluegrass and Beer, Pro Challenge. We supply the volunteers, and most of those volunteers come from the gardens.”
Beyond the plot fees, each individual gardener can determine how much money he or she wants to spend, beginning with buying seeds and plant starts.
“Packages of seeds range from $1 to $3, depending on if you get something that’s the basic seed packs from the store or something that’s organic,” Elich said, adding that he went to Alpine Gardens in Silverthorne for his seeds. “I went to get the seeds that were more of an organic variety of some kind.”
Elich said the gardens are composted and ready to go and the existing soil in the plots is nice and rich on its own, but last year, he chose to apply a couple of HC3-approved organic fertilizers to supplement the soil in his plot. Synthetic and chemical fertilizers and pesticides are strictly prohibited from the community gardens.
Gardeners can also choose to add stakes, posts, supports for climbing plants, garden art or even season extenders, such as small hoop houses, provided these items have been approved by the garden steering committee prior to installation.
“My peas grew so tall that my 3-foot, chicken-wire fence was no longer tall enough to hold them,” Elich said. “I had just trimmed an alder tree, so I took these branches and drove down there with a ball of twine. I wove them back and forth into each other, and the peas grew all up into it. It was a marvelous thing.”
What can I grow?
Amongst its online resources, HC3 has included a list of recommendations for which plants thrive at high altitude in Summit County’s short growing season.
“Some plants that are really great at high altitude are salad greens, mixed greens, Swiss chard, kale, spinach, root crops like radishes, turnips, parsnips,” Burley said. “Peas do really well, and a handful of herbs, like cilantro, rosemary, oregano.”
Elich grew a variety of root veggies, greens and herbs, giving him a rotating supply of options to work into his cooking repertoire and to snack on when he would occasionally spend his lunch hour wandering his garden.
“I work at RE/MAX just up the street, and in the middle of summer, I forget to have lunch, so I walk down to the garden and I just start eating,” he said. “They laugh and say, ‘Butch is grazing in his garden again.’
“I had kale, arugula, snap peas, snow peas, cilantro, carrots, radishes, parsley, and it grew in such an amazing way. It was this absolutely incredible therapy session for me. I could leave the business of my desk … and walk down to my garden and eat from it.”
Why should I get a plot?
The purpose of the HC3 community gardens, in general, Burley said, is to get out and meet your neighbors. High-altitude gardening is really difficult, and a lot of people are intimidated by trying to grow in a short season with crazy mountain weather. But having a community garden plot, rather than trying to go it alone, is a chance to get out and meet other experienced gardeners and learn side by side with them, she said.
“The more we can grow our own local food, the less that we have to rely on food that’s transported thousands of miles just to reach our supermarkets,” Burley said. “It’s cutting down on transportation costs from a big-system perspective and bringing our food down to a local level.
“And it provides a spot for people, too. A lot of people live in condos; they don’t have land up here. They are leasing space to grow food, where in a condo complex or apartment complex, they might not have that opportunity.”
Even if your garden doesn’t yield perfect produce, Elich said it’s still worth the experience and sharing it with a friend or two.
“People are walking by and saying, ‘I’ve always wanted to do this, but I don’t know how,’” Elich said. “I can teach you or someone else will teach you. You come and stick some seeds in the ground and water it, and it’ll grow. It’s really easy if you don’t get too caught up in the results.”
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