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Inside Denver Urban Gardens: How you can get involved

Denver Urban Gardens has over 100 gardens in and around Denver, so chances are, if you've live anywhere near or in Denver, you've seen one. Urban gardening provides community residents the oppurtunity to grow their own food, participate in urban renewal and to help local nonprofits out with home-grown produce. Although there's a multitude of reasons to get involved with your local garden, it may seem intimidating -- especially if you have unanswered questions about how to get started. Abbie Harris, in charge of communication and development at Denver Urban Gardens took some time with us to answer those questions.

Westword: How does one get involved in community gardening?

Abbie Harris: We have about 150 gardens. Typically how people get involved is that they give us a call and we will put them in touch with a community garden leader, who will help them get a plot, if there is space available.

Is there typically space available?

It depends on the time of year. By the end of May, most of our gardens in central Denver are full, although if you call early in the spring, your chances are good. We are now building close to 20 gardens a year, so we are trying to keep up with the demand.

Cabbage in a Barnum Park community garden patch.
Cabbage in a Barnum Park community garden patch.

What type of support can one expect when they join one of your community gardens?

The element of support that we provide to community gardens is one of the things that is particularly cool about what we do, actually. We typically charge a $45 plot fee for covering the costs of compost or water for the season, but we waive a huge amount of that fee for people who are unable to pay. There are shared tools, a ton of gardening resources online, we provide organic compost to all of our gardens at the beginning of the season, and all of the water is right there. We also have a free seeds and transfer program.

Also, If you are not a very experienced gardener yourself, chances are someone very near in the garden is, so we always encourage new gardeners to ask the other gardeners around them questions. That way you don't ever feel like you are going it alone.

What is something you are frequently asked?

People always want to know how community gardens work. There is a common misconception that the way community gardens work is that everyone just contributes what they can and then takes what they want, but we found that it's most effective to have individual plots to cultivate and then some shared community plots for shared food and flowers, or the community food that will be donated -- every garden has a section or a row in each plot that is donated to a community organization, like Project Angel Heart, and the food is taken to those organizations once a week or so.

Shed in Barnum Park community park.
Shed in Barnum Park community park.

Do you still have space available on your bike tour this Saturday?

We do have a few spaces left.

Anything else you think newcomers should know?

I think it's important that the community understands that we are a resource that is here for them, so our hope is to help community leaders create their own community gardens. We can help with every step of the way.

To reserve a space on the bike tour of six community gardens (complete with yummy after-tour potluck) this Saturday, go to www.dug.org/bike-tour. To learn more about Denver Urban Gardens, visit their FAQ page.

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