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Each gardener chooses what they want to grow in their plot, as the Master Gardeners of Becker County help them maximize the space.

It's community garden time: Stake your claim early as DL gardens are first-come, first-served

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Gardening is something many get excited about this time of year, and now, thanks to a new community garden in Detroit Lakes, even city folk can join in.

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They literally broke ground on the project last year for the first time, creating an 8-plot garden in the Industrial Park across from Snappy's in Detroit Lakes.

But popularity blossomed and that had organizers almost doubling the garden this year to 15 10 foot by 10 foot plots.

"The interest is defiantly there -- people are just excited to grow their own produce," said Marsha Parker, a member of the Master Gardeners of Becker County, a registered dietician with Essentia Health St. Mary's and the woman who made the community garden a reality.

Her love of gardening and her commitment to a healthy lifestyle was her driving force.

When she pitched the idea to City Public Works Director Brad Green, members of the Park Board and ultimately city council, she was thrilled with the support.

"Well, I think the biggest reason we were so excited about this is because we are in a community that, if you look at senior housing, people are limited to what they can do," said Green, "and this was such a good opportunity for people who are confined or don't have the opportunity for growing their own, fresh produce to do so."

The city-owned land that was chosen used to be a softball park, so while the soil needed a big makeover, it was a perfect location that included a bathroom, watering capabilities and nearby playground equipment so that gardeners could easily make it a family affair.

Although last year's gardeners get first dibs, the other available plots are first-come first serve, with sign up happening May 1 at 5 p.m. in the library.

Members of the Master Gardeners then help over-see the garden, educating the summertime tenants if they need it.

"It's really about square foot gardening," said Parker, "You have to look at your space and decide what vegetables do I want to grow and what type of space do they need."

From there, planters meticulously plan out every square inch of their plot, properly spacing out cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, onions, potatoes or whatever the gardeners desire.

There is a gardening shed on site full of tools and a faucet for watering next to the garden.

It's the gardener's responsibility to plant, water, weed, pick and clean up their space.

There is a $20 fee for each plot.

"I think that kind of gives people a little more accountability too, if they know they've paid for this," said Parker who says they only had to give one "gentle" reminder last year to one of the gardeners to take better care of their plot.

Parker says the mixture of people participating in the community garden include all kinds of people, from singles to families to elderly.

"There's nothing better than having fresh produce, and if you grow your own it can help develop your eating habits," said Parker, who adds that when kids have a hand in growing something, they're more likely to eat it.

Two of the plots last year were used to grow vegetables that were then donated to the Becker County Food Pantry.

Community gardens are not a new idea as they can also be found in neighboring communities, but for Becker County, it's one that has certainly taken off.

"We're so grateful to the people who have stepped forward to make this happen," said Green, "this is just one of those things that makes our community not just a good place to grow up in, but a good place to grow old in."

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