Input sought in community garden project

Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     Kyle Gassman, an employee of the Monticello Public Library, has been hitting the ground running with a project that could benefit many people in the Monticello community.

     Gassman, an avid gardener, came up with the idea to raise money and build raised garden beds. These would measure 4-by-8 feet and stand 36 inches off the ground. The proposed location, with approval already sought, would be on the lot north of the Monticello Heritage Center (owned by the Center). Gassman said there is potentially room for 30 raised beds in the plot, with 4-foot walkways in between.

     He envisions the raised beds being tall enough for children to plant and maintain, as well as senior citizens.

     Gassman got the idea for community gardening late last fall after giving a presentation at the library about his hobby.

     He spoke with members of the Heritage Center (Dave and Penny Schoon and Bob Hendricks) about using the lot to house the garden. Gassman figured if people volunteered to plant and raise a garden, it would also draw people to the Heritage Center.

     “Hopefully the doors could be opened more often,” he suggested.

     Just last week, Gassman and the library sent out a public survey on social media, asking people for the input into a community garden and whether they would be interested in participating or donating money toward the project. Gassman said already the reception has been quite positive.

     “It’s been received really well,” he said. “This project could reinvigorate the community.”

     Gassman said several more meetings are needed to iron out the details, bring some players into the mix, including the Master Gardeners and ISU Extension and Outreach.

     “There could be opportunities for mentorship for young gardeners,” he said,” or those who just want to learn more.” Gassman admitted he is still learning after gardening for most of his life.

     As for competing with Riverside Gardens, which are also maintained by volunteers, Gassman sees this idea competing in not way. He said raised beds could contain produce as well as ornamental flowers and plants.

     “The focus would be to grow your own food,” he said.

     Gassman said for older folks in town, raised beds prevent the need to bend down to garden; rather the garden is right in front of you.

     Gassman said with raised beds, tilling is not needed every spring. Instead, composting would keep the garden going every season.

     “No sense in sending refuse to the landfill,” he said. “You could use it back in the garden.”

     Gassman also already talked to a few restaurants in Monticello about using their coffee grounds as part of the compost structure.

     With fundraising needing to take place to buy the materials for the raised garden beds, Gassman connected with the Monticello Ministerial Association, a non-profit organization.

     “We would be an umbrella under the association,” he said. This would allow people and businesses to donate toward the project and be able to write it off as a tax deduction.

     The Ministerial Association, which manages the food pantry, could also benefit with the surplus of fresh produce going to the food pantry.

     “We just want to see people and groups get involved in adopting a garden plot,” urged Gassman. He said such groups would include civic, church, youth, scouts, schools and more.

     “We need to see what level of interest is out there,” said Gassman. “We have a small start-up group meeting already.”

     In terms of cost, Gassman figured it would cost $300 bed raised garden bed. This would include the material to build it as well as the fill (soil) to start planting. Gassman researched the material, preferring 20-gauge galvanized corrugated metal that comes pre-cut to size needed.

     “All we’d have to do is assemble,” he said. “With willing volunteers on hand it could be done on a Saturday afternoon.”

     Gassman said he priced wooden beds, but the lumber is actually more expensive.

     “If the funding comes through in a timely manner,” he said, “we could have the beds in place this winter and plant in the spring of 2018. But that’s a pretty aggressive schedule.”

     Gassman has been gardening all his life, even as young boy.

     “I remember when I was 2 or 3 years old being outside with my parents picking green beans,” he recalled.

     The past 12 years or so, Gassman got into raised bed gardening after realizing his property is not suitable for in-ground gardening.

     “I’ll never go back,” he said of the preference.

     Gassman said volunteers would pay a set figure, perhaps $25 a year, to then rent a raised bed for the season.

     “We are still ironing out those details,” he said of the cost.

     The only limitation on what could be planted would be invasive plants.

     ‘We don’t want something that can’t be controlled,” explained Gassman. “We want to keep things pesticide and herbicide free.”

     Gassman said gardening has been a hobby, a way of life for some, since before WWII. He said it wasn’t until after the war that grocery stores and supermarkets started popping up. He said the history of gardening is quite fascinating, again, meshing with the history of the Heritage Center.

     Gassman urges people to fill out the survey. You can find it by visiting the library’s Facebook page or stop in the library to fill it out by hand. You are asked to include your e-mail address so Gassman could contact you about future meetings.

     “There is just something about the miracle of planting a seed, watching it mature and bear something you can eat,” he said.


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