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Community garden grows

Are you struggling to get your kids to eat vegetables?

Consider growing your own at the Cloquet Community Garden, where the Moore family is raising vegetables and children who enjoy eating them.

"Gardening is fun," exclaimed Jocelyn Moore, age 8. "I love watching my plants grow and I love to plant and eat them ... especially the peas and cucumbers. Gardening makes me happy!"

For the eighth summer, the Cloquet Community Garden is providing gardeners of all ages the opportunity to get busy working the soil and planting seeds. Katie and Vernon Moore and their three children, Jocelyn included, are planting their second season of vegetables and flowers there.

The Cloquet Community Garden is located on the east side of the Zion Lutheran Church grounds. The space includes about 25 plots of various sizes available to rent each growing season, including six raised beds for physically easier gardening, plus a children's plot and a shared rhubarb patch. As in past years, gardeners this season include those very new to planting as well as more experienced lifelong gardeners and hobby farmers.

Katie Moore said she can grow only flowers at their townhouse, so she jumped at the chance to be part of a community garden again.

"Our family is all involved in different ways," Katie said. "My oldest isn't interested in the planting part but will help water. My 10-year old is more interested in flowers, and is great at picking and eating when it comes to harvest. My 8-year old loves everything about gardening from planning it out, planting, watering, weeding and harvesting. My 8-month old was born in the middle of September last year so she was brought right into the harvest and will be involved for the whole season this year. And of course, my husband is so helpful with weeding and watering, and we work out a schedule for who does what."

Last summer the Moore family grew yellow and red onions, rainbow carrots, sugar snap peas, green beans, radishes, kale, broccoli, basil, cucumbers, sweet mini-bell peppers, Jimmy Nardello peppers, parsnips, asparagus and beans. They also grew tall snapdragons and petunias around the edges of their plots to attract pollinators and to make flower bouquets. They are adding corn, kohlrabi and Brusseld sprouts as new vegetables this season.

"I love growing flowers and especially love picking the veggies when they are ready," said Emily Moore, age 10.

Katie said carrots, cucumbers, peas and broccoli were the kids' favorite veggies last year.

"As the season went on they loved coming to the garden to pick anything that was ripe to eat as a snack," she added.

Community gardens are excellent for novice gardeners, renters, and homeowners with no suitable gardening space. Plots are a manageable size for gardeners of any experience and ability. Plus, it's affordable and there is a community of people from whom to gain knowledge. A single plot rents for $20 per season.

Katie said there's a lot to like about gardening as a family.

"I love teaching my kids what plants grow well with each other, how to plan out a garden plot to best utilize space, when to harvest and how to preserve our harvest," she said. "I feel like gardening is a lost art and not a lot of my friends my age are into gardening. It's so awesome being a part of the community garden because no matter how long you've been doing it, there is always something to learn and new people to meet."

Vernon Moore succinctly summed things up: "I love enjoying the fruits of our labor, food, and a happy wife."

Community effort

Sharing information, learning new tricks and tips, and working together are hallmarks of the community garden concept. The mixture of seasoned gardeners and new gardeners talk informally about garden-related topics and share common tasks such as weeding walkways between plots, preparing the garden in the spring, and putting it to rest in the fall.

Registration is first come, first served. The plot rental fee of $20 per season includes prepared soil and use of tools, water, soil testing and fertilizer. Financial assistance is available. A volunteer board meets for planning and organizes the spring and fall preparation and cleaning of beds. Most plots were rented for the 2024 season, but three were still available as of the end of May.

Participation in the Cloquet Community Garden is open to anyone in the Cloquet area. No previous gardening experience is necessary, and helpful advice and gardening mentoring is available from other participating gardeners.

At the beginning of the season, participating gardeners are invited to a Community Garden workday for a few hours to help get the entire garden area ready for the season. A similar workday is held at the end of the season in October.

Popular items grown in previous years are tomatoes, beans, carrots, cauliflower, lettuce, cabbage, peas, squash, cucumbers, beets, Swiss chard, garlic, and a variety of other vegetables and flowers. Watermelons, cantaloupe, and pumpkins have been successfully harvested from the small plots.

"Everything you grow is your own, you don't pick out of someone else's plot without permission," Katie said.

There is a chalkboard at the community garden and an email group for communicating iformation among participating gardeners. If a gardener has an overabundance of a certain item, they will offer it up for anyone who wants to try it, or donate it to the free food shelf.

Watering depends on how much rain falls and how hot the weather gets. The Cloquet Community Garden has a rain collection system with tanks.

Katie estimated it takes 10 to 15 minutes to water a plot. She estimated weeding to take between 30 minutes to an hour, a few times each season.

Katie said she tells all her friends how much she loves gardening and being part of the community garden.

"It feels so rewarding to grow our own produce," she said. "I grew up watching my grandparents' gardens grow and have loved it since I was a little girl. When I'm in the garden I feel at home and connected to my grandparents, who have passed away. Gardening is so good for the soul!"

For more information or to get involved in the community garden, email Vicki Anderson at [email protected].

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