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Neighbors will garden together in area community gardens

River Heights residents Mary Rittenhouse and Lori Heinonen start their garden plants from seed inside to get a head start on the growing season.1 / 3
Plants are already beginning to sprout this spring at River Heights. The plants will be transplanted to the garden outside the apartments once the weather is warm enough.2 / 3
Kylie Boettcher, 11 adds soil on top of her seeds. She is participating in the community garden project this year.3 / 3

Community gardens are sprouting up throughout Hubbard County thanks to funding from a Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP) grant.

Gardens are planned at River Heights Apartments and Cornerstone Apartments in Park Rapids, along with Nevis, Akeley and Laporte.

Diane Brophy, St. Joseph's public health nurse, is working to implement the SHIP grant. The idea for the community gardens is to have a place for anyone in the community to have access to fresh vegetables and flowers.

Sharon Voyda, with the Housing and Redevelopment Authority of Park Rapids, manages River Heights Apartments. She is inviting anyone interested in planting in the community garden to give her a call at 732-4158.

Melody Boettcher, manager of Cornerstone Apartments, works with Hubbard County Housing and Redevelopment Authority. She hopes residents at the apartment will become interested in gardening. She and daughters Sarah, 5, and Kylie, 11, started various vegetables and flowers from seed at the end of March.

The idea for Cornerstone is to donate any extra produce to the Hubbard County Food Shelf, she said.

River Heights Apartments residents Addie Harvala and Mary Rittenhouse have gardened for many years and are glad they can continue gardening at River Heights. They started seeds and are watching them germinate inside until they can be transplanted.

Voyda said she would like to use some of the SHIP grant funds to create raised beds for the River Heights garden. Raised beds would alleviate bending over, which can be difficult for some people.

At a recent planting party at River Heights, Sari Mabbett gave some tips on planting.

She said that many plants can and should be started ahead of time and be placed in a window inside to germinate. These plants include tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, morning glory, kohlrabi, marigolds, squashes and cukes.

Mabbett suggests starter containers/pots should be small. Seeds should not be planted deeper than a half inch, she added. More dirt can be added later.

Germination typically takes between two and 10 days depending on the seed health and plant type.

"You can use a heating blanket on low underneath the containers to help them grow," she said. Once the seeds have sprouted, the heating blanket should be removed.

Mabbett saves her 16 or 32-ounce yogurt or sour cream containers or cans to protect the plants when they are first transplanted into the garden. The bottom is cut out of the container. The remaining border protects the plants from wind and cut works, she said.

The containers also work as a watering device with water going directly down the stem.

An old concept - planting by the moon - is making a comeback, Mabbett said.

The idea is that one of the earth's cycles is that it breathes out in the morning and breathes in during the afternoon. For this reason, starter plants should be transplanted in the afternoon. Also, transplanting should occur in the "dark of the moon," which is between a new moon and full moon, she said.

The seeds planted at River Heights were at the right time in the cycle.

A transplanting party will be around the first week in May. This first year of community gardens will be an experiment but organizers are excited about the possibilities.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561