The Elm Creek Community Garden was awarded a $10,000 grant Wednesday by the Health Care Foundation of Greater Kansas City.
Carolyn McLean, a volunteer and board member of the garden, said the money would go toward constructing a greenhouse at the garden as well as purchasing a blade to go on the garden’s tractor.
“We are extremely grateful for the grant, but it still means we’ll have to cut back on some of our projects,” McLean said. In its grant application to the Health Care Foundation, the garden had requested $26,350.
“We may have to cut back on some hours the garden is open,” McLean said. “We’ll definitely have to prioritize on what needs come first.”
Ongoing costs of the garden include water, maintenance on equipment, rental of a portable toilet, topsoil and fuel.
More than half of those who use the garden do so free, McLean said.
“About 65 percent of our clientele live below the federal poverty guidelines. For those people, there is no charge for garden plots. They also receive free use of tools, seeds and plants.”
For others, a plot can be had for $20 a year.
John Richardson, garden coordinator, tills and fertilizes each plot at the beginning of the growing season, McLean said.
LOCAL RESIDENTS love the new garden.
Steve Traw has spent his professional life as a pastor looking after the welfare of others.
Now, he’s indulging himself by gardening.
He observed, “the garden encourages a lot of people,” gets them out in the fresh air and gives them the satisfaction of watching vegetables plants grow and produce.
“There are a lot of people who grew up with gardens and this helps them be able to have a hand in one again,” Traw said Monday morning early, as he carried flakes of hay from his pickup truck on the end of a pitch fork to mulch tomatoes.
He grew up on farms, first in Coffey County before his family was displaced to north of Emporia, near Americus, by development of John Redmond reservoir and lake.
Consequently, he not only knows horticulture nomenclature but also how to go about making his plot in the community garden generate fresh vegetables for the dinner table.
He noted that low spots in some of the plots had led to water standing too long, which either stunted or killed young plants. A couple of rows of green beans were stark evidence, with several places where the plants had withered.
He also knows the value of mulch and composting — if it’s done with proper restraint — and when and how to plant a variety of things to keep fresh food coming over a period of time.
“Aren’t these little (new) potatoes nice,” Darcus Kottwitz asked husband Don, who was rummaging through vines looking for pods containing succulent sweet peas.
They would be good creamed with some of those peas, an onlooker observed.
“We like them with fresh green beans,” said Darcus, without looking up from where she was digging with bare hands.
A nursing instructor at Fort Scott Community College, she understands the health values of eating fresh.
She and Don, a retired painting contractor, have three plots in the garden, and their enthusiasm for the discipline have made all three a mass of green. Their spaces are filled with vines and plants, most a little ahead of their neighbors.
That the Kottwitzes were at the garden not long after sunup was no surprise. They spend much time tending to their bounty and getting an early start has been important recently to beat oppressive heat as each day wears into late morning and afternoon.
Later Darcus pulled out a spray bottle and began bathing plants with a solution to discourage pests.
Pests are a nuisance, Traw said, noting that leaves on a row of green beans were holey.
“They need a good dusting just about every day” with a pesticide to keep the bugs away, he said.
All of the garden area is replete with plantings, though each plot has propriety implications because they are, after all, rented.
Even so, Traw recalled how a woman mentioned to him that she had stopped by and did a little random harvesting.
“It is a community garden,” she contended, and wasn’t eager to accept his less liberal interpretation.