For the City Times
Submitted by Karen Houdek, Wood County Master Gardener volunteer coordinator of the
Growing Friends Community Garden
It’s that time of year again. Even though the weather is a bit iffy, gardeners are busy browsing the seed catalogs in anticipation of another growing season. Most of us are lucky enough to have a plot of soil to play in the dirt with in our own back yard. For some however, gardening at home isn’t possible due to limited space, too much shade, or rental agreement restrictions. Instead, these gardeners rent garden beds from the Growing Friends Community Garden for the Wisconsin Rapids Area.
The garden, situated on land donated by Aspirus Riverview Hospital, is conveniently located on the corner of Hill St. and Spruce St. Entering it’s 6th growing season, the gardens have been a joint effort of volunteers from many organizations. For instance, volunteers from the First Congregational Church, Wood County Master Gardeners, Wood County Agricultural Extension, and Community Garden member volunteers maintain the gardens on a day to day basis. In addition, the city provides the gardens with compost and mulch yearly.
Through the years, the gardens have steadily grown to include not only 72 garden beds of varying sizes, but also an extensive composting area, a storage shed which provides gardeners with all the tools needed to garden with, water availabilty, a large pergola with picnic tables, and benches scattered throughout. In addition, the garden boasts a fairy garden for children to visit, a small apple orchard, a culinary herb garden bed and a rhubard garden bed. Gardeners are free to pick from these communnal plots.
Two years ago the garden’s volunteers created a pollinator garden, specifically to help increase pollination of vegetables. A wonderful side effect was watching the numerous Monarchs that also visited. With a bit more work, the Community Garden became a certified Monarch Waystation last fall.
As well as growing fresh vegetables for themselves, a number of the Community Garden gardener volunteers aand md Master Gardener volunteers are also involved in growing, harvesting, and donating fresh produce for the South Wood County Emerging Pantry Shelf or SWEPS. The past few years have seen donation totals reach nearly 700 lbs of fresh produce per year.
The Growing Friends Community Garden is always looking for new gardeners and volunteers to help with our mission of creating food security within our area. This year we have a number of garden beds available for a $10.00 fee. All tools are provided. We always welcome new gardeners who would like to learn about gardening. Master Gardener volunteers offer garden advice and act as mentors, with the goal of helping people learn and enjoy their gardening experience.
Anyone interested in renting a garden bed or volunteering time in the gardens can contact Karen Houdek, Wood County Master Gardener volunteer at email@example.com or Laura Lokken, First Congregational Church volunteer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, find and like us on Facebook; Growing Friends Community Garden for the Wisconsin Rapids Area.