RBC I Sure, it’s July, which to some feels like summer is half over. Strictly speaking, however, the gardening season is still young, which leaves plenty of time to join Rangely Community Gardens many activities.
This summer, volunteers have additional options for getting their hands dirty: with kids and families in the Children’s Garden; in a community strawberry patch; in the pick-your-own-herbs garden; and, this fall, by planting fruit trees.
The Children’s Garden, a new space envisioned by local potter and gardens steering committee member Beth Wiley, includes kid-sized plots for vegetables and flowers, a community flower bed and vegetable plots and a sunflower circle and a bean fort with interactive activities planned around the spaces as plants grow.
“When some spaces opened up this year, I saw an opportunity to get more families in the community outdoors and participating in growing things,” Wiley said. “Kids — especially mine – love to get dirty, and it’s good for them. So I thought I’d give them a space of their own to dig and plant and play.”
Wiley is especially grateful to the businesses and groups that have made the Children’s Garden happen in the first place. Heritage Lumber donated wood for the plots, Rangely True Value and Split Mountain Garden Center donated and discounted plants and seeds, and the gardens steering committee let her run with the idea.
“Kids discover nature, get exercise, work together and see where food comes from,” she said. “There’s so much to learn from working in a garden.,”
Kindergarten teacher Kari Way, who has been volunteering with the Children’s Garden since the beginning of summer, has found her own niche there.
“I like to be involved in the community in activities that are developmentally appropriate for young children,” she said. “I like to garden but don’t know a lot about gardening. This has been a great place to learn more.
“Gardening is appropriate for all ages and has many benefits,” she added. “Plus, digging in the dirt is good for your immune system, it makes you feel happy and it provides healthy food for kids and their families.”
Kids’ areas are still available for planting and so are a couple of full-sized plots ranging from 240 to 740 square feet in size. Children’s Garden participation costs only the $15 Community Gardens membership fee, which allows families open access to the Garden all season, with scholarships available to those in need.
Individual plots start at $80 for new members, with discounts for returning gardeners, seniors and those in need. All gardeners contribute a couple of hours monthly helping with the community areas.
The plot fee not only covers the space and water, but gardeners also have access to tools, including a tiller, soil amendments and help from other gardeners.
“This season we adjusted the pricing to make the cost per square foot consistent among all the plots; we realized we had been charging one rate for plots of various sizes and this seemed unfair,” Wiley said. “Unfortunately, this raised the price of some plots, and, with a transition in leadership this year, we may not have communicated what was going on clearly. We’re very sorry for any confusion or ill will this may have caused.”
This early in the summer, there’s still time to plant plenty of produce that will mature by fall. While some vegetables need to have been planted by now, others, including green onions, cucumbers, carrots, beans, peas, summer squash, beets and many greens, have a much shorter growing season.
Participants who have less time but still want to get involved can help grow the community garden.
“It’s a place to make friends and watch things grow,” local realtor and first-year volunteer Susana Field said. “While working for the community, I’m helping to grow the community, and by osmosis, learning to garden.”
The Gardens donates vegetables to the local food bank, the school lunch program and the elderly, with volunteers also harvesting vegetables of their own for their efforts.
This year, Gardens organizers also hope to sell produce at a multi-vendor farmer’s market coordinated by the Rangely Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. The farmer’s market, which may include kids’ gardening activities and which will be free and open to any vendor wanting to participate, will run for six weeks in August and September.
“There are so many ways to participate, and we hope the community will continue to take advantage of this great resource,” Wiley said.
For more information about plots and pricing, go to www.rangelygardens.com or contact Wiley, the Gardens’ community outreach coordinator, at 970-274-1239.