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St Paul, MN: Tour set to showcase the nature of area communitygardens

  • Subject: [cg] St Paul, MN: Tour set to showcase the nature of area communitygardens
  • From: adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2006 09:03:59 -0400

Green thumbs
Tour set to showcase the nature of area community gardens.
BY MARGE HOLS
Parade of Community Gardens
The worst fear of community gardeners is that the land they've worked and come
to love will be taken for a different use. That's what happened this year to
people who grew vegetables and flowers at Farm in the City's big Jimmy Lee
garden at the corner of Lexington and Concordia avenues in St. Paul.
The city's Parks and Recreation Department plans to build soccer, football and
baseball fields on the land by 2008, according to city parks director Bob
Bierscheid. First, it's building a large addition on the Jimmy Lee Recreation
Center north of the garden. But moving the garden doesn't mean city support is
declining.
"We want to expand both vegetable and floral gardens; they're part of Blooming
St. Paul," says Bierscheid. "Mayor (Chris) Coleman has asked us to keep moving
on it, and there's money in the 2007 budget for the gardening program."
In April, the parks department helped move the community garden two blocks
west to public land at North Griggs Street and Concordia Avenue. It relocated
trees, removed grass, tilled the soil and installed water mains. Renamed
Dunning Community Garden, the garden has 80 individual plots that people can
rent for $10. Together with the nearby Farm in the City Children's Garden,
it's on today's Parade of Community Gardens (see box for details).
Lam Le, a farmer who emigrated from Vietnam 10 years ago, was watering a
thriving patch of squash when I visited last week. Le, who lives in a nearby
high-rise apartment, says he likes to farm and grows food for himself, his
children and grandchildren. Besides leeks, melons, squash and white radishes,
he's growing Vietnamese cucumbers, which are much larger than the ones usually
grown here.
Larrie Peterson was harvesting corn b not just any corn, but 'Kandy Korn,' a
hybrid sweet corn.
"It's the best corn ever made," says Peterson, a St. Paul resident who used to
farm in Hayfield in southern Minnesota. "You know how to cook sweet corn?" he
asked. "You put the corn in cold water and when it starts boiling, it's done.
Then right to the table."
Peterson, who's also growing tomatoes, melons, cabbage, peppers and onions,
says he gives away much of his produce. He shared some 'Kandy Korn,' which I
cooked by his method. Tender, sweet, delicious!
The garden brings together people from many backgrounds and ethnic groups,
says Martha Benda, acting director of Farm in the City. Included are a young
woman who has introduced her little sister from Big Brothers/Big Sisters to
gardening, a couple struggling with unemployment and underemployment, and a
senior citizen who lost his garden when he moved to a high-rise. There's a
Roman Catholic nun, a high school student and her mother and a couple
expecting a baby who want affordable organic food. Two plots are worked by
inner-city children participating in Arts Us, a program combining arts and
gardening.
Like the old garden, this one's strictly organic, meaning gardeners are not
allowed to use chemical fertilizers or pesticides. The soil was heavily
amended with a blend of compost, sand and black dirt before planting. To help
control insect pests, children in the Farm in the City summer program release
ladybugs.
Farm in the City is a nonprofit agency that operates five organic gardens in
the heart of St. Paul. Besides the Dunning and children's gardens, there's a
labyrinth on the adjacent Concordia University campus, a farm garden near
Hamline Avenue and Interstate 94 and a community garden at Highland Park High
School. Last year, the 10-year-old organization won two awards for community
vegetable gardening: a Golden Bloom Award from the city and the St. Paul
Garden Club award from the Minnesota State Horticultural Society.
In the farm garden, gardeners grow small fruits, herbs and vegetables for Farm
in the City's community-supported agriculture program. People in the community
buy shares in the organic garden and receive a box of vegetables and flowers
weekly. Among the gardeners is a group of deaf Hmong men. Kor Thor, who has a
slight hearing impairment, helps the men communicate with others. The men also
have plots in the community garden.
"You can tell their gardens," says Benda. "They build trellises of scrap wood
and sticks for their cucumbers and beans. They tend to have a gully in the
middle. It creates a raised bed, which helps with drainage and makes it easy
to get at their plants."
While I was visiting, Kor Thor brought his two little girls to the children's
garden behind Dunning Recreation Center. The garden is designed to instruct
and delight with native perennials, plants that attract birds, herbs, fruits
and a plot with vegetables for salads.
The children's garden is integral to Farm in the City's summer programs for
kids. There's a culinary camp where kids learn the connection between the
soil, the food they grow and what they cook and eat. A photo camp emphasizes
nature photography, and a program called Harvesting the Imagination combines
art, gardening, cooking and environmental stewardship.
"One of our gardeners says community gardening calms a neighborhood," Benda
comments. "Studies have shown community gardening helps bring down crime. It's
partly because there are people in the neighborhood day and evening. The
garden makes the neighborhood more beautiful, and residents walking past see
people of different ethnic backgrounds together. It's a meaningful and natural
way to bring people together."
Marge Hols is a Master Gardener with the University of Minnesota Extension
Service. You can contact her at dmhols@comcast.net.
This week's checklist
Rescue a tree. Trees on many St. Paul boulevards are showing signs of distress
from drought such as leaves turning color or dropping. Give trees near your
property a long, slow drink of water by running a hose at a trickle over the
roots for several hours.
Harvest onions and garlic as foliage begins to die back. Continue picking
tomatoes, cucumbers and corn.
Pull weeds from the garden and deadhead spent flowers before they go to seed.
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