Published – Gazette Fresh*ink – “Pikes Peak Urban Gardens, includes all illustrations, photography and Interviews
Pikes Peak Urban Gardens – Build it and they will come.
By Larry J. Fontana
Just a few years ago Larry Stebbins, founder, director and enthusiastic force behind the Pikes Peak Urban (PPUG) was having difficulty offering its urban community garden idea in Colorado Springs. In 2010 PPUG took a leap of faith “build it and they will come.” By 2011 their entire inventory of available garden plots and six community garden locations in the Springs area are reserved and thriving with no end in sight for potential growth.
Urban community gardens are small plots of land, commonly 20-feet by 20-feet raised beds that can be individually rented and or managed within a local cooperative. They offer a unique opportunity for individuals and families who do not have access to land of their own and wish to grow a vegetable garden during the summer months.
PPUG is a non profit organization founded in 2008 as a passionate pursuit of Stebbins, a former assistant principle at Air Academy High School, with degrees in botany and chemistry and an ardent gardener. PPUG’s goal is to initially acquire the funding to develop the garden sites and then support the local communities to become self-sustaining through their own garden managers. PPUG offers classes including plant selection, soil preparation and time-tested gardening tips specific to the Pikes Peak Region.
Community is at the heart of PPUG’s mission says volunteer Steve Hitchcock, “To stimulate the passion that will lead them to the dirt.” For example, he continues, “if one member has a bumper crop of carrots and another member has a bumper crop of peas they have a great opportunity to trade.”
Original community gardens developed by PPUG include: Dorchester Park, offering garden space for the Springs Rescue Mission and Marian Soup Kitchen; Vermijo Community Gardens, supplying garden plots to local residents; and Youth Ventures providing garden opportunities for foster care children and their families.
Community gardens added in 2011: the Iron Horse Community Gardens at Faith Covenant Church; West-Side Community Gardens at the old Buena Vista Elementary School; and Harrison Urban Gardens located at the Harrison School District Administration Building.
PPUG also maintains its own demonstration garden at the historic Harlan Wolfe Ranch at 915 W. Cheyenne Rd, and is open to the public for tours, volunteer opportunities and especially their Pick n Pay program. Everyone is invited to come and pick fresh vegetables, salad greens, herbs, flowers and pay only for what you pick.
The Harrison garden site which opened May 2, 2011, is most closely aligned to PPUG’s ideal vision so far, featuring garden plots, water spouts, picnic benches, shade trees, an outdoor kitchen and storage shed for garden tools. The Harrison site is a standard for the future, says Stebbins.
Lee Willis, the resident enrichment manager at Greccio Housing is excited to be introducing urban gardening to its affordable housing community. It currently offers 4 garden plots to 14 Greccio residents with more planned for the future. “The residents love it,” says Willis. “It gets them out of the house, gives them something to work on together and they love the idea of growing fresh vegetables with their own hands.”
The best way to gain a real sense of the value, splendor and excitement of growing your own urban garden is to contact PPUG and visit Harlan Wolfe Ranch; it is a fun educational experience for the whole family. Bring the kids and let them loose in the children’s pizza garden. Pick some carrots, peas, broccoli and onions and see how much tastier your salad becomes when you know that you plucked the ingredients directly from the plant with your own hands.
The Pikes Peak Urban Garden staff and volunteers are happy to offer their enthusiasm, advice and assistance. Visit their website at www.ppugardens.org for more information.
Published – includes all illustrations, photography and Interviews…