It's been about 10 years since the first notices were circulated around the lakes area, asking people to sign up to participate in a new project known as the Detroit Lakes Community Garden.
A 34x70-foot space — large enough for 15 plots, each 9x12 feet in diameter — was reserved for the project in the Detroit Lakes industrial park, across the road from Snappy's at 1016 11th Ave. SE.
"The city (Public Works Department) excavated the grass off of it, and we brought in some good peat moss," said Master Gardener Tom Reiffenberger, who has been involved with the project since its inception. "The city also dug a water line next to the plots so we'd have access to water."
Gardeners using the site were also provided with access to a building with bathroom facilities and a storage area where things like watering hoses, shovels and rakes were kept for their use.
"If they don't have a particular tool, or forgot to bring it, they can make use of whatever we have on hand," Reiffenberger said.
In the years since, the program organized by the Becker County Extension Master Gardeners has grown sufficiently to prompt a request to the Detroit Lakes Park Board, asking permission to double the amount of space used for the program, as well as to construct a deer fence around the entire area.
"They (the Park Board) approved it at their February meeting," Reiffenberger said.
The fencing was included in the proposal in order to discourage deer and other animals from helping themselves to the gardeners' produce — something that has been a real problem over the years, he added. Now all that remains is to obtain the final stamp of approval from the Detroit Lakes City Council.
So how does one become a community gardener? It's pretty simple. Sign up at the city office, pay the $20 fee, and the 9x12 space is yours for the summer, Reiffenberger said.
The fees are used to cover basic maintenance costs, he added. Though there are no official restrictions on what is grown in the plots, Reiffenberger said, users are asked to avoid invasive species and any plant varieties that might grow enough to encroach on neighboring plots.
"We still have a few spaces left (in the existing garden)," Reiffenberger said, and if the council approves the expansion, they will soon have quite a few more.
For more information on how to sign up for a plot, contact the Becker County Extension Office at 218-846-7328, or Reiffenberger himself at 847-5642.
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Master gardeners offer seasonal tips
According to the Becker County Extension Master Gardeners, March is the time to ...
Order seeds to start indoors under florescent lights, later this month or early next. Check seed packets to see how many weeks ahead of transplanting they must be started.
Cut slender branches of pussy willow, Nanking cherry or red maple late this month or early next to force into bloom indoors. Re-cut the stems and soak them in a warm (not hot) water bath overnight, then in a bucket of warm water in a 60 to 65 degree location with indirect light. Move them to brighter light as flower buds open
Repot houseplants before spring growth starts and you are busy outside.
Start new houseplants from tip shoot slips for new houseplants or to add to container plantings in May.
Prune! This is your last chance to prune trees, summer blooming shrubs, fruit trees and roses. If your oak trees need trimming, have it done by the end of the month, to help prevent the spread of oak wilt disease.