A public park in downtown Gardnerville will be growing more than grass and shade trees this summer.
Members of Main Street Gardnerville, in conjunction with town officials, are in the process of transforming a 1.5-acre portion of Heritage Park into a community garden.
"It seems to be very popular with the community. Everyone who walks by yells, 'Thanks for doing this,'" said Carol Sandmeier, chair of the Main Street Design Committee. "We hope this will be a place where people gather, and eventually will become a tourist attraction and location for special events, too. There are endless possibilities."
It was a year ago when Sandmeier first planted the idea of a public space where individual residents, or groups, could rent out loamy beds of soil throughout the growing season.
"We first went to the town to get permission to use the land, because it belongs to Gardnerville, and then we formed a committee," said Sandmeier. "That was just a year ago, and that committee has grown by leaps and bounds. We have 20 people on the Heritage Park Community Gardens Committee, and 60 volunteers.
"We've been able to work one day a month because the winter was so mild. We started with this spot that was full of weeds and rocks, but quite a good-sized space, and now we have 10 beds available."
The beds range in size, with the smallest costing $30 to rent for the entire growing season, and the largest $70. The fees cover the costs of watering and insurance.
Additional plots have been created as demonstration beds. One has been planted by Cooperative Extension master gardeners to showcase edible landscaping, while another will be used to display native plants. The committee itself is planting a vegetable garden to supply the Carson Valley Community Food Closet.
Only one of the public beds had been rented as of last week.
"Of course it was snowing for our first sign-up day," Sandmeier said. "It was snowing, but one family came on their bicycles and rented a space for their two little boys."
Ensconced by hay bales, the present beds make up a small corner of what committee members hope will become a vast and verdant public garden.
"We're only using about half an acre, but we're expecting to grow and expand on the whole acre and a half," Sandmeier said. "We want at least 30 beds and a children's garden. We're also planning a labyrinth walkway. The path that will go between Gardnerville and Minden is right behind the property, so we'd like to put it through the gardens and have it lead over to Heritage Park."
The group is planning to establish a demonstration orchard and hoop house as well.
"We're going to build a hoop house in early May with a class on hoop house construction," Sandmeier said. "We're only limited by money."
Last year, the committee competed in a community grant contest sponsored by Raley's. Unfortunately, they lost out to California projects. This year, Sandmeier hopes to rally the troops and best the Golden State.
"We were the top one in Nevada, so we're going to try it again this year," Sandmeier said.
As for the current season, gardeners are expected to water and weed on their own.
"Once they've rented their bed, it's their responsibility to maintain it and pull the weeds," Sandmeier said. "They'll get to know each other and take care of the area."
What they plant, however, is up to them.
"We're not being specific. If someone needs a flower garden, they can make it happen," Sandmeier said. "Vegetables are what we like, because it's part of encouraging people to grow what they eat and to have a healthier approach to food. It (localvorism) is happening all over the place, and we want to be part of that."
To supplement funding, the committee will be selling "flower-pot people," including scarecrows and garden girls.
A sign-up/work day has been scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday. A workshop on hoop house construction with Pawl Hollis of Rail City Garden Center, costing $10, has been scheduled for 1 p.m. May 6.
An open house/plant swap has been scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 2.
"If everybody just comes and takes home something to plant in their own garden, then we will have accomplished a lot," said Sandmeier.
For more information, contact Sandmeier at 782-3903, or Main Street Gardnerville at 782-8027.