Anyone who has put in a new garden knows there is a lot of work to do before you pluck a single pea. First, you have to find an appropriate site: good soil, sunny location and water source access. You will need to make decisions. Raised beds versus conventional, trucking in compost or making your own, and fencing or no fencing?

When all of that is settled, it is time to dig, dig, dig.

Hopefully you already have a rototiller, some shovels and hand spades, a rake or two and hoses. Otherwise a new garden quickly becomes expensive, too.

For those just getting into gardening, this can all feel somewhat overwhelming. Fortunately, the Key Peninsula has a community garden with more than 20 plots available.

Located in Key Center, behind Sunnycrest Nursery (on 92nd Street KPN), the community garden rents 4-foot by 24-foot plots. A one-time fee of $50 covers water costs.

“As a community, gardening is easier because you get to share equipment and share ideas,” said Dale Skrivanich, volunteer coordinator for the garden.

Jessica Smeall, who is recreation coordinator for Key Pen Parks and also works as registrar of the garden, agrees.

“We’re trying to increase the community feel of the garden. We want gardeners to know each other’s names, know whose plot is whose,” she said.

This year, Smeall is planning meetings and workshops to help new gardeners learn techniques. “We’ve got great soil, great sun and a community of people who want to help you succeed,” Smeall said.

However, the KP Community Garden is about more than just getting newbies to stick their fingers in the dirt. Every year, two of the plots are reserved to grow fresh vegetables to donate to needy families through area food banks.

“Helping the food bank is so important. We’ve have so many people who are down on their luck here,” Skrivanich said.

In spring, the food bank plots receive donated plant starts from local gardeners. A few months later, volunteers harvest potatoes, carrots, tomatoes and more.

The garden, now in its fifth season, was started in spring 2010 with the help of a nonprofit group called Healthy Communities of Pierce County. However, without a Key Peninsula representative truly invested in the garden, leadership faltered, and as of 2013, Healthy Communities is no longer involved with the garden.

That’s when the park district stepped in. With an enhancement grant from them, the garden was able to acquire deer fencing and purchase gardening equipment. Smeall made logistical upgrades and added plot markers listing gardeners’ names.

And she got the word out. “Pairing up with Key Peninsula Parks is exciting because it brings it into focus. Jess has done a terrific job of advertising,” Skrivanich said.

Smeall will be talking up the community garden again at next month’s Livable Community Fair, scheduled for Saturday, May 10 at the Key Peninsula Civic Center.

The future of the community garden looks bright. Skrivanich, who believes people shouldn’t have to drive more than five or 10 minutes to reach their community garden, would like to see two new ones eventually added to the peninsula: one in the Longbranch/Lakebay area and another in Gateway Park.

“Right now in the United States there is a huge push for people to keep gardens. If the White House has a garden in the middle of all that landscaping, it is an important thing,” Skrivanich said.

Community garden organizers are currently seeking volunteers to tend food bank plots for the 2014 season. If you would like to volunteer or are interested in renting a plot, contact Dale Skrivanich at (253) 225-3027.

More information about KP Community Garden is available at keypenparks.com.

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