In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
March, 2005
Regional Report

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Kids learn a lot about gardening and themselves by participating in a community garden. (Photo courtesy of Denver Urban Gardens)

Community Gardens at Work

If you're one of the many urban dwellers who get excited about gardening as spring approaches but don't have the space to garden, have no fear. You are a good candidate to join in a community garden project in your neighborhood. Community garden projects are already gearing up for the season and so is Judy Elliot of Denver Urban Gardens, who oversees the education programs for 70 community gardens.

As Judy Elliot talks about the Denver Urban Garden program, she is quick to note: "Our community gardens don't only grow seeds. We don't only grow plants. We use the analogy of building a healthy soil, healthy plants, and healthy people to plant the seeds of bringing communities together." She tells me that 20,000 people participate in garden projects that create a green oasis amidst the concrete of the city.

Sharing the Fun
One of the gardens, Ashgrove Community Garden, has gardeners like Amanullah Mommandi and his father, Mohammed, who doesn't speak English. They brought seeds and traditional methods of growing vegetables from their native Afghanistan. Mohammed spends his spring and summer days working in the garden because he enjoys the company of other gardeners who share this passion for gardening, without exchanging a word.

Community gardens are great escapes for children, too. Kids naturally like digging in the dirt and planting seeds to see if they will grow. By cultivating their curiosity while they are still young, gardening can help them develop a love of nature and the pleasure of gardening. It's also quality time spent with you in the great outdoors.

It is important to make kids' gardening experiences successful and fun. Start them out with plants that will grow quickly, vegetables that mature in a short time, and those that are large enough to get their hands on. Some of my favorite choices are radishes, leaf lettuce, carrots, pumpkins, and of course that Italian zucchini. Who knows, kids might even begin to like to eat these culinary delights.

Don't forget to add color and interest to the community garden by adding flowers such as marigolds, nasturtiums, sweet peas, and zinnias. These are quick to germinate, and they bloom in profusion.

It is important to include the child when deciding where to plant "their" garden. Let them do the planting themselves. This is a good time to explain what is needed for a bountiful garden. Teach them about building a healthy soil. Plants need the right kind of conditions to grow and produce. Make sure the garden spot gets at least six hours of full sun and has a readily available source of water. Locate the garden where it's easily accessible to the child and where it can be admired by others.

Children should have their own tools to use in their garden. You can find child-sized rakes, hoes, shovels, and gloves at many garden stores, home improvement centers, and mail-order catalogs.

Now that spring has arrived, you can satisfy your urge to plant and tend to a garden. Make it a family or community activity. To find community garden sites in your neighborhood, contact Denver Urban Gardens (DUG) at (303) 292-9900, or visit: http://www.dug.org.


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