By Jan Rahn
Season number two has rolled around for the community garden project, and it’s time to plant.
Patrons who signed up, along with children from Hugs-N-Teddybears Daycare at the hospital, and the USDA/Farm Service Agency employees will all come together to transform bare dirt into a vegetable lover’s paradise.
Last year, a collaborative effort went into starting the garden adjacent to the USDA Service Center, with the Grant United Methodist Church seeking the funding.
Money for this year’s gardening project was provided by the Perkins County Health Services Foundation to purchase the plants.
The hospital’s daycare children tend to a portion of the garden space. There are six additional plots that measure 11x14 for residents of the community, and there are another three plots located at the Daryl Snyder residence on Logan Avenue.
The weather has been rather uncooperative during much of May, but now those interested in gardening can get plants in the ground anytime. The area has been rototilled, and with some recent moisture, it should be easy to dig in the dirt.
According to the Perkins County Extension Office, when the soil temperatures reach 50 degrees some of the early crops like radishes can be planted.
“Most of our garden needs 60-degree soil to grow,” said former extension agent Doug Anderson. “Planting sets will benefit with a little warmer soil.”
He said the frost-free date was May 10, but 2014 is not normal. Temperatures last week dipped toward freezing.
Mulch is a great thing for weed suppression, said Anderson, who prefers wood chips. If grass clippings are used, make sure they are dry and don’t use more than a couple inches so air and water can move through.
He suggests planting the taller vegetables to the north and plant the fast-growing early crops near vining plants such as pumpkin so the vegetables will be harvested before the vining crops start spreading.
“Always use mulch under tomatoes, as blight requires leaf-soil contact to get started,” said Anderson. It’s best to water underneath, as over the top will aid leaf spot diseases. Keep the soil moist, but it is okay for the top inch to dry out, he added.
How It Works
According to Pastor Nora Mendyk, who was instrumental in acquiring last year’s grant and establishing the community garden project, each plot’s gardeners will receive $20 to purchase plants. Additionally, the FFA students at Perkins County High School have raised vegetables for the gardeners.
Each group will plant, weed and harvest their own plot, with the expectation that they will keep their garden space ‘in order’ and share abundant harvest with others.
The produce from the daycare children’s garden will be shared with the senior center.
Employees of USDA/FSA will take care of watering the garden plots. There are some garden tools available for use, but gardeners may bring their own if they wish.
How the Project Began
Last year, Pastor Mendyk of the Grant United Methodist Church received a call from the United Methodist Omaha Big Garden Project indicating there was grant money available for a community garden and inquired whether Grant might be a good location.
Pastor Mendyk visited with several folks in the area and found that office employees at USDA had grown garden produce near their facility for a few years, known as the “People’s Garden.”
So it was natural to ask if expansion would be a possibility, said Mendyk. Budget planning, site planning, and a grant proposal followed.