CB South community gardens need gardeners

Composting isn’t being fully utilized either

Story and photos by Katherine Nettles

Food may not be rotting on the vine, but opportunity certainly is, with Crested Butte South’s community garden sitting relatively unused this summer. The garden’s compliance coordinator, Sue Wallace, says despite an early season rush of interest in the garden plots, when the time came to reserve them, residents didn’t seem to be much in a gardening mood.

“We had such high hopes,” says Wallace. “When Benita [Bellamy, with the Crested Butte South Property Owners Association] put out the call for gardeners, she had a huge response. More than we even had spots. But the interest just dropped right off.” There are currently only six gardeners, and 11 unclaimed plots.

The problem may have been the long, cold, wet spring or what Wallace refers to as “an image problem.” Wallace says problems in the past have included rodents, the irrigation system and other infrastructure challenges.

“Prairie dogs especially have a seasonal cycle, so they affect the early part of the season and that may have scared people off,” Wallace says. “If they actually get through that first phase [of gardening], it gets much easier.”

Wallace says there’s now a much better handle on the pest control in general, with finer barrier screens installed around the fences.

“We had some infrastructure things we needed to tend to and make it work,” says Wallace. This also included fixing a few leaks in the irrigation system, and boosting the solar power system that works with it.

“Moving forward, we’re in a much better position,” said Wallace.

For those would-be gardeners out there, Wallace says the remaining plots are there for the taking.

“It isn’t too late—there’s lots of stuff that can still be grown in the season. The compost that came out of it from last year is awesome, and the staff has been using it as top dressing for the gardens,” Wallace says.

Mid-summer garden vegetables that can be started from seed, Wallace pointed out, include some of the things that grow best here anyway: peas, radishes, greens such as spinach, arugula, bok choy, lettuces, kale, chard and others, and “possibly beets and carrots.” Potatoes and onions could overwinter, and Mountain Roots has a highly successful bunch of garlic that comes back year after year, she adds.

Additionally, says Wallace, anything that has been germinated can go into the ground. “Some things here need frost protection, but people can get a plot and frost cloth.”

Wallace, a certified master gardener, says she would be happy to assist people who are new to gardening, or need some ideas or instruction as well. “I would love to help them.”

A fee of $15 gets you a three-foot by five-foot plot; a four-foot by eight-foot plot is $30; and a six-foot by 10-foot plot is $40.

Another way Crested Butte South residents can get involved in the garden, without the commitment of tending veggies, is to simply participate in the compost drop-off.

Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon, the community garden opens itself up to anyone who lives in Crested Butte South to drop off household compost. The garden has agreed to accept compost from residents outside of CB South as well, for a charge of $20 per month. Volunteers are on hand to direct traffic and take the hand-offs. You can also come by on Saturdays to get buckets to use at home to collect and transport your compost back and forth.

“If you don’t want to garden, if the community would at least compost that would be great—it’s such a great amenity,” says Wallace. “It’s such a nice example of a closed loop, versus trucking it down to the landfill or through a water treatment plant. It’s just a really elegant solution.”

There is even the potential that you could score yourself some supplemental compost for your own garden next year. Wallace says they need volunteers every Saturday to take in the piles, weigh them and mix them—“Even high school kids, or anybody that’s interested in biology, or children.”

While the bulk of folks will come earlier in the morning to drop off compost, with enough volunteers, they could maybe get a second shift such as Wednesday evenings for the after-work crowd.

The thing to note, of course, is that compost cannot be accepted if it has dairy, heavy oils or meat products in it.

“The thing about compost is, almost everything can go in there, with the exception that we are trying to eliminate fats, meat and dairy that can bring in an inviting odor… They will break down, it’s just that they can be smelly,” says Wallace.

And odors can bring in unwanted attention from pests or even bears. So far, Wallace says she has never had a problem with that, even at her personal compost pile at home. She notes, “If it’s managed properly and the pile is being monitored well, we haven’t had any problems in the community garden.”

For more information, or to set up a compost account (for non-CB South residents), contact Sue Wallace at (970) 901-6851.

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