Bill Osborn has gardened in Kenai’s community garden for more than 20 years.
“It’s kind of a therapy thing for me to put things in the ground and watch them grow,” Osborn, 84, of Kenai, said.
While the city’s community garden is fenced in to protect its produce from moose, rototilled by the city and hooked up to water, perhaps its greatest perk is its access to the gardening community, said Lydia Clayton, an agriculture and horticulture agent for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.
“It’s a great place to find a community of gardeners and get to interact with them,” Clayton said.
As of April 12, the city will open registration for new gardeners to buy a plot in the community garden. Currently it is seeing if those who gardened last year plan to return. There are 16 plots in the garden.
Osborn, who is focusing now on his garden at home, said he was always willing to help people who may be new to the activity when he owned a plot in the city’s garden.
He said an easy misconception about gardening in Alaska is assuming the soil is rich and requires no fertilization.
“They don’t take the trouble, the time, to put nutrients in the ground,” he said.
A trick he has shared with gardeners in the past is to put potting soil under his vegetables and water them periodically with a Miracle-Gro formula.
“It works for me and there’s no reason it wouldn’t work for others,” he said.
Clayton said gardeners can not only pick the brains of gardeners like Osborn, but they can also inspect different plots to learn new techniques.
“People do all kinds of interesting and different things,” she said. “And you can think, ‘I can reproduce that in my garden plot.’”
Also the community garden fosters a neighborly atmosphere, can improve a community’s eating habits, encourages outdoor recreation and is a an educational tool for families, Clayton said.
“They’re a great way for folks to get outside,” she said.
Bob Frates, Kenai Parks and Recreation Director, said the garden is a “hot button” and he expects its plots to be in high demand.
Plots cost $20, plus tax. Those interested in buying a plot can call Frates at 283-3692 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The city’s community garden is located at the north end of the park strip off of Main Street Loop.
“It’s a great opportunity for folks to get plugged into the gardening community,” he said.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at email@example.com.