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Organic Gardening Unites a Community in Idaho Falls

The Idaho Falls Community Garden connects gardeners of all kinds

Published online: Mar 12, 2019 Events, Home And Garden
Viewed 1129 time(s)

As March rolls through, the time grows closer for gardeners to begin planting their seeds. Whether you’re new to gardening or you’ve been gardening for years, the Idaho Falls Community Garden Association connects green-thumbed Bonneville County residents with likeminded people.

Members of the Community Garden receive a garden plot at one of three garden sites. They supply their own seeds and take care of their plot. Each gardener also contributes to the overall maintenance of the garden.

New members are required to take a free organic gardening class before registering. These classes are held at the Center for Higher Education in Idaho Falls. After paying a membership fee, gardeners receive a plot and can begin planting.

Kristi Appelhans, president of the Community Garden Association, says gardening unites people across age groups, socioeconomic groups and belief systems.

Since the first community garden began in 1995, it has grown into a network of three gardens: Westside, Eastside and Rollandet Gardens. Each garden contains 25 to 45 plots of various sizes for various skill levels.

The organization hosts classes throughout the winter months, but during the narrow window of Idaho’s spring and summer, people just want to be outside working in their gardens.

“Once the gardening season starts — which is early May until the end of September — people are so devoted to their time in the garden that they’re not interested in doing a lot of other stuff,” Appelhans said.

The Community Garden focuses strictly on organic-based gardening. Many people doubted organic gardening as a viable option 20 years ago. Appelhans experienced this sentiment when the Community Garden began.

“I went to a local equipment guy, … and he said ‘You can’t grow organically here, it’s impossible.’”

Organic gardening requires greater care than gardening that introduces chemicals to the equation.

“With organic gardening, the premise is that you’re trying to create an ecosystem that’s as healthy as can be so that you minimized the problems that occur,” Appelhans said.

This focus on organic gardening fosters a greater appreciation for the plants, the soil, the produce and everything else that makes up this system.

It’s also one of the biggest trends Appelhans has seen in gardening in the past 10 years. While underground gardening, hydroponics and other techniques require intensive time and resources, the average person wants a simple garden that can produce fruits and vegetables they can eat. Organic gardening provides that.

Sometimes it produces wild results. One young gardener grew a head of broccoli that weighed six pounds.

The Community Garden doesn’t just cater to adults. Not long after the organization began, Appelhans started the youth gardening program, known as the Sprouts. These children begin with the basic gardening lessons. Older children, called Spud Buds, learn more advanced techniques and garden theory. But the goal is the same — teach children how to care for a natural ecosystem and practice organic gardening principles.

Elise Hart, who has been with the program for eight years, currently volunteers as the Sprouts coordinator.

Sprouts are responsible for prepping their beds, weeding, laying compost and caring for their individual gardens.

The Sprouts also maintain a common garden where they raise wheat that’s used to make pizza dough. They make pizza sauce with tomatoes grown in their garden.

“Watching the kids get into it is probably the most rewarding and the most fun,” Hart said.

Appelhans said gardeners enter a universe with the variety of seeds available. She wants people to know just how many possibilities there are.

“It’s like walking out on a starry night,” Appelhans said. “You’ve been in the house, and your eyes are accustomed to all that light. You step outside, and at first you can only see the brightest stars, and then you look for a while and more and more and more stars appear. And it’s kind of the same thing with seeds. At first you know of these two dozen things. And you start paying attention and you realize, oh my gosh, there is literally a universe out there that I don’t know anything about.”

The Community Garden is one of many resources in the area for gardeners. Other community gardens are located in Rexburg and Blackfoot, although there is no direct affiliation with the one in Idaho Falls.

Registration for the Community Garden will be held on April 6 from 9 a.m. to noon in the Development Workshop Griffith Building.

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