Time to think of Community Gardening

Submitted photo Community gardening is a great way for families to work together, learn about gardening and grow fresh, healthy food.

NEW ULM — The snow may still be three feet deep, but New Ulm Community Garden is already preparing for the green season.

The Community Garden is located at 1915 S. Valley St. near the former Putting Green site and has been in operation for six years.

The Community Garden has continued to be a success long after Putting Greens closed. In 2017, Putting Green terminated its lease with the City of New Ulm for use of the mini-golf course site, but the environmental non-profit chose to continue its work through the community garden.

Community Garden Manager Emily Korbel said last growing season the garden had 51 plots rented out to 34 different gardeners. This year there will be 75 plots available in the garden. Each plot is 25 by 4 feet and the rental fee is $40 per plot. This fee includes use of water, mulch and gardening tools. Korbel said shovels, hoes and wheelbarrows are available.

The Community Garden is all organic. Korbel said no pesticides are used as they try to do things natural. Organic fertilizers that use fish meal or kelp are popular.

Submitted photo Kids love gardening, as this group shows. District 88’s Kids Connection brought students last summer to the New Ulm Community Garden to give them exposure, and now the school has its own garden.

“These fruits and vegetables are better than store-bought,” Korbel said. “Everything else is watered down.”

Korbel said everything a person can expect to see in a garden is grown in one or another of the plots. The gardeners grow a plethora of fruits and vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins, spaghetti squash, ground cherries, beans, peas, carrots, potatoes and others. The gardeners avoid planting items that could threaten to overtake the garden, like mint.

Several people grow flowers instead of food and herbs. The flowers are great for pollinators like bees and attract many butterflies. Gardeners are encouraged to plant marigolds because it keeps the rabbits away.

The community garden is used by a variety of people. Some are lifelong gardeners who needed more space. It is also popular with first-time gardeners hoping to learn the tricks of the trade before committing to altering their lawn. The garden is very popular for people who live in an apartment or do not have access to land.

Many New Ulm residents cannot garden because deer and other wildlife eat their plants. For this reason the community garden is surrounded by a deer fence.

There are even some gardeners who use the food produced on their plot as a way to afford fresh food. Gardening is a cost-saving effort for many because seeds can be purchased cheaply and since the Community Garden provides other materials, the start up costs are further reduced. The idea is to give everyone a chance to garden and grow healthy produce. In addition, a few plots are set aside for the Foodshelf.

Korbel said as the garden grows from being connected to Putting Greens they are trying to create more community activities and educational opportunities.

“We’ve worked with HONU, Allina, United Way, Hy-vee, and SHIP,” Korbel said. “One very successful program was having the New Ulm Public Community School Summer program Kids Connection come out and garden and volunteer. We were able to get lots of children exposed to gardening and now the public school has a garden of their own.”

The Community Garden is seeking some grant funding. Overall, the garden has few expenses, but there are plans to create raised beds for gardening. Korbel said a raised bed helps keep weeds out and is better for those with disabilities. Other plans are to replace the shed and add shaded structures.

Programming ideas include birdhouse painting, making mason bee houses, painting garden signs, photography lessons, flower arranging lessons and a day of yard games.

The Community Garden is a success for New Ulm and thrives through help from the community. Wood chips for the alley ways are donated by Kraus Tree Service, RVS donates trash receptacles, D & A trucking has donated pallets to create a compost center and volunteers help tend plots.

Korbel said there are volunteer opportunities for groups to come out, such as Boys Scouts, Girl Scouts and church groups.

Korbel said her family became involved with the garden shortly after moving to New Ulm.

“We had no time for gardening at home and lived on an old gravel pit,” she said. “It was a great chance to get the family out there.”

On Feb. 26, the Library hosted a garden planning session to allow the public to learn about the Community Garden and review plans for the next season. The event was well attended by local New Ulm gardeners. Mary Fischer began renting two plots last year. “It is a beautiful space and it really inspires me,” she said. Also she praised the setup for the garden.

“One of the most important things about gardening is it gets people eating healthier foods and helps them get exercise,” Korbel said. “[That’s] two things which most of us could use a little extra help with.

To sign up, gardeners can visit the website: Puttinggreen.org or visit the facebook page facebook.com/newulmcommunitygarden.

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