Alex Benzegala waters veggies in the community garden behind Sunnycrest Nursery in Key Center. Photo by Greg Anglemeyer, Special to KP News

The Key Peninsula Community Garden, behind Sunnycrest Nursery, is being prepared for its second season of gardeners.

Barbara Carr, Community Garden Coordinator for both KP and Gig Harbor hopes all of the plots will be in use this year. The KP garden still has three available. Each plot is a raised bed 4 x 24 feet. A plot for our KP food bank will be in service this year, tended by volunteers as well as some of the families caring for their own gardens.

Tools, compost, water, and some seed donations are all available at the garden. Panel cloches can be used to extend the growing season and repel some pests.

The soil was too poor for growing healthy crops, so the raised beds are used as well as additions of topsoil and composted manure. A work party was planned for March 26 to spread the manure. Gardeners pay a $30 donation for the season, with a sliding scale for families who cannot afford that amount. They may also plant some flowers in their gardens, but the focus is on growing organic produce.

Carr, a retired teacher, holds monthly classes to teach what to plant and how, care of the plants, and how to use what is grown.

This year, some basic cooking classes will be held at the Gig Harbor YMCA. Preservation—canning, drying and freezing will also be covered. Carr hopes to set up such classes on the Key Peninsula, too.

The YMCA sponsors Y Friends and Servants—members mentoring teens involved in community service, with some teens volunteering at the local gardens.

Gardeners may participate in summer potluck socials at the garden.

“Table” gardens – beds raised to table level — are planned for Key Center.

Carr hopes to set up tours of the KP garden for schools or interested community groups.

The idea for the community gardens originated with doctors in the Pierce County Medical Society concerned about obesity in our society. The physical activity in gardening, plus access to healthy foods coupled with education could lead to reducing or eliminating obesity in many families.

Healthy Communities of Pierce County are shaping healthier communities, with many supporters and partners working with them.

Key Pen Parks provided a generous grant of $10,000 to set up the KP garden. Carr says the money has been used for fencing – the biggest item – water lines, compost, a bulletin board, a garden sign, a heavy duty tiller, a garden shed, wheel barrow, garden tools, office supplies, and a few other things.

“For initial set up, a community garden costs 3-5 thousand dollars,” says Carr. “Fencing is a BIG cost if the area has deer that must be fenced out.”

“Community Garden maintenance costs primarily consist of water, compost, office supplies, etc. If a food bank garden is included the costs are higher because the food bank does not pay for the garden space. Ideally the yearly donation cost per gardener should cover most of the costs. We rely on community involvement, both for volunteers, and cash and in-kind donations,” says Carr.

Franciscan and Multi-Care, Purdy Topsoil, Cenex, Stroh’s, Sunnycrest Nursery, Pen Met Parks, Route 16 Running/Walking Store,  and the women’s prison gardeners have all donated money, products and/or time to the two local gardens.

Contact Carr to sign up for a garden or for more information—253-228-0538 or GHCommunityGardens@gmail.com

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