1st-time garden in Vermijo Park ‘worked great’

       The Vermijo Park Community Garden is nearing the end of its first growing season, harvesting praise from its founder, Larry Stebbins.

The Vermijo Park Community Garden's 17 plots (not all shown) were in different stages of harvest in a photo shot over its perimeter fence this week.
Westside Pioneer photo

       As director of Pikes Peak Urban Gardens (PPUG), he had convinced city officials last year to try his idea of putting a community garden in a city park.
       “It worked great,” he said. “The cooperation from City Parks and Recreation has been outstanding. It is a win-win for the city. A vacant spot in the park that was hard to maintain is now a flourishing garden that feeds many folks and their families.”
       All 17 plots - most of them about 20 by 15 feet - were rented, and a waiting list established. The same kind of interest has been evident at other community gardens PPUG has started on the Westside, including the 2800 block of West Pikes Peak Avenue (last year) and outside the Holy Theophany Orthodox Church on North Chestnut Street (two years ago). Renting such plots has proven propular with people who like to garden but don't have suitable space where they live.
       The Vermijo garden has benefited charity. The plot-renters agreed to give 10 percent of their produce to Care & Share, Westside Cares “or any other food pantry of their choosing,” Stebbins said. Based on his belief that more than 2,000 pounds of food were grown during the summer, about 200 pounds in all were donated, he estimated.
       The West Pikes Peak site, called the Old Colorado City Community Garden, also donated food this year. Gary Brewington, one of that garden's leaders, estimated the amount at “some hundreds of pounds” to Care & Share over the course of the season.
       PPUG, a non-profit business that specializes in founding and teaching about gardens, has the Vermijo contract with the city. This includes managing the site for its first three years. The city provides water but is reimbursed for that cost through the gardeners' rental fees.
       Looking to 2011, Stebbins said he is “hoping for a continuation of the success that the garden had this year. There was a lot of food that came out of Vermijo. I believe that most all the gardeners want to return next year.”
       He plans to provide training to those who are interested, which wasn't possible last spring because the site wasn't ready quite as soon as planned. “We will be inviting all the gardeners to our monthly garden classes this year,” he said. “ We hope this will add to their already successful gardening.”

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