‘Your own little piece of heaven’ in Eagle
Eagle, CO Colorado
EAGLE, Colorado –For 24-year-old Melisssa Shaner, a small garden off Capitol Street in Eagle, Colorado is the closest she’s ever come to owning land.
“It’s like having your own little piece of heaven” she said.
The Eagle resident tends a bed in a community garden here, a hobby that allows her to cultivate her love of planting even though she lives in a loft apartment with no lawn.
Shaner’s goal? Grow veggies like spinach and onions for summer salads.
“It’s all kind of an experiment for me,” she said. “I have some friends who are excited to have dinner parties with the vegetables.”
Shaner is among 20 gardeners who tend beds at the Brush Creek Park Community Gardens. Since 2001, the garden has occupied a swath of land just southeast of the intersection between Capitol Street and Brush Creek Road, across Capitol Street from the Brush Creek Pavilion.
With neat rows of beds up to about 20 feet long by 5 feet wide, the garden has its own irrigation system. A barn also houses tools like wheelbarrows and shovels. Gardeners pay an annual $25 fee to tend a bed.
Driven by higher grocery costs and a faltering economy, a growing number of Americans are taking up vegetable gardening, the New York Times reported. Seed companies and garden stores report the biggest boost in interest since the 1970s.
Space in community gardens across the country has been sold out for several months, the Times reports.
Such is the case at Eagle’s community garden, where 10 people are on a waiting list for beds.
“It’s probably the most interest we’ve seen there since it started,” said Gladdie Funke, a garden board member.
Often cheaper than store-bought food, home grown produce is fresher as well, gardeners say. The Eagle gardeners swear by organic growing methods.
“The sooner you can get vegetables from the garden to the table, the more nutrients are in it,” Funke said. “It’s kind of a no-brainer.”
Gardeners say there are intangible benefits of growing their own food as well, like the friendships they form with other gardeners.
“It’s a way of bringing together our community,” Funke said.
The social aspect of gardening appeals to Shaner. A few friends often join her for weeding sessions. They like to don sun dresses and bonnets and listen to music as they work, she said.
Along with forming bonds, a network of gardeners here also swap tips. On a recent afternoon, Eagle resident Terry Carter, 51, sprinkled coffee grounds over his bed in the community garden. He had received an e-mail from a fellow gardener noting that coffee grounds ward off ants. He decided to give it a try.
Carter and his wife, Peggy, say they have met a lot of people in the area through the community garden.
“You get to know people by their gardens,” Peggy Carter said.
Along with the social benefits of gardening, it’s just healthy to spend time outside, gardeners say.
“I think it’s very therapeutic,” garden organizer Jenny Lorch said.
Gardeners here face the challenge of a short growing season.
Most people start preparing their beds in April and cover them up by the end of October, Funke said.
Even during warm months, though, cold snaps can pose a danger, gardeners say.
“It could snow at any moment and you could lose everything,” Shaner said.
Given the climate, root vegetables such as onions, potatoes and carrots tend to do best here, Lorch said.
Gardeners have big plans for this community space. Funke said they’re hoping to raise about $16,000 to build new beds, and repair and expand the irrigation system.
They also envision planting an orchard.
“We would like to expand the garden and to have at least 10 more beds,” Funke said. “It can be done. It just might take a couple of years.”
To get on the waiting list for a bed or donate money to the garden, contact Jenny Lorch at 970-328-1807 or visit http://www.brushcreekparkcommunitygardens.org
The Eagle Valley Land Trust and Eagle River Watershed Council program adds 1% to purchases to fund preservation and conservation.