While emptying shelves in the grocery store seem to be filling shoppers’ supply of anxiety, backyards are starting to look more like opportunities.
Echoes of WWII’s Victory Garden initiatives are ringing through the chambers of social media outlets and garden supply phone lines during COVID-19, nationally and locally. The historical movement encouraged teamwork and community efforts to expand the nation’s food supply, but the recent resurgence in gardening has a different look.
Self-isolated folks are navigating outdoor recreation with the awkward caveats of doing so close to home and away from others. For those with yards, constructing gardens is a utilitarian way to fill time at home. Those without access to gardening spaces may choose to explore Carbondale’s community options.
There are 15 plots available at Demeter’s Garden (located at the Third Street Center) at varying sizes and costs. “If you know how to treat the soil, you can grow as much as you want,” said Elizabeth Cammack who, with Tami Stroud, has managed the garden since spearheading its construction seven years ago. Cammack noted that she still has a good supply of last year’s fall harvest — garlic, onions, carrots — as she favored growing vegetables that store well.
Stroud said that the garden has good ditch water access and a dedicated community herb plot with a nod to the nearby bread oven. Though the garden maintains some rules such as adhering to organic standards and barring some plants from cultivation, it is a community setting meant to bring people together. “Really one of our goals is to build bridges between different people of different backgrounds and walks of life,” said Stroud. “I have been so much better for it.”
Demeter’s Garden is on Town property and those applying for garden plots should do so by contacting the Town. Those interested can preview available plots at the garden; they are marked with stakes and orange flags.
Carbondale Community Garden in Hendrick Park is also on Town land and has two plots available. Interested folks should contact Terry Lee at email@example.com for more information. Eric Brendlinger, the Director of Carbondale’s Park and Recreation, said that the Town gardens remain accessible to gardeners as food cultivation is considered an essential service. Gardeners should maintain social distancing practices and bring their own tools, as all Town community tool sheds are currently inaccessible.
The Good Seed Community Garden is owned by the Orchard Church and stands north of it on Snowmass Avenue. About 60 plots of varying sizes are currently available. With some soil amendments and perhaps a facemask for those who have been sick or are at higher risk, those interested are welcome to apply for a plot by messaging the Good Seed Community Garden Facebook page.
Once garden space is established, it’s time to shop for seeds. Carbondalians have easy access to seeds bred specifically for the local high desert climate from Wild Mountain Seeds, just south of town on Highway 133. The farm carries a wide selection of organic seeds, including those for early spring crops such as spinach, kale, peas, arugula, lettuce, carrots, beets, and even fava beans. They make social distancing easy by delivering seed orders via mail.
Owners Kirsten Keenan and Casey Piscura have always supported community involvement in the local food supply, but “it feels more important now than ever to empower people to grow their own food,” said Keenan.
Wild Mountain Seeds typically does a lot of business on Dandelion Day selling warm-season crop seedlings, but Keenan said “this year could be different than ever before.” The farmers recognize they may have to get creative in distributing seeds and crops this year and they encourage readers to stay updated by following their farm on Instagram. They’ll also be selling potting mix from Paonia Soil Company and providing free seed packets at the food bank when it fully reopens.
The pair maintain a focus on educating farmers and community members, and Piscura encouraged greenhorns to “educate yourself as best as possible on how to garden” before throwing yourself in the soil.
Keenan and Piscura hope to host volunteer work parties later in the season, though they’ll have to wait for social distancing measures to change. Until then, Colorado State University’s Extension website is a great resource for gardening topics from basics to diseases.
Gardeners can also turn to Eagle Crest Nursery in El Jebel for supplies ranging from tools and water attachments to mulches, composts, and potting soils to fill raised beds with. Though manager Diana Mundinger said the store is usually most fully-stocked in the first week of May, they are starting to receive deliveries of seed potatoes, seed onions and seedling plants this week. They are currently taking orders over the phone and have designated hours for pickup.
In 1919, the National War Commission published a pamphlet that stated gardening’s “peace-time value will fully equal its war-time worth.” Perhaps those turning to gardening in the face of COVID will, too, see (and taste!) its value for seasons to come.