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Get in the dirt, grow something and make friends along the way
Basalt Community Garden has plenty of plots available for the 2019 season
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How does your garden grow? With sun and moisture and plenty of hands-on care. - photo by Craig Turpin

If a recent spate of warm weather (notwithstanding this week’s deluge, of course), and the return of color to the Mid-Valley have you itching to get in the dirt and bring some plants to life, you’re not alone.

However, if you live in an apartment or condo with no soil to dig in, you’re also not alone. Luckily for you, the Basalt Community Garden offers plots of land to anyone willing to invest themselves in the gardening community.

“There’s something really rewarding about growing your own food and pulling your own weeds,” said Elyse Hottel, who is in her second year as both a plot holder and garden manager.

Hottel explained that although the deadline for returning gardeners to reserve their plot again has passed, new gardeners still have some time to get involved. She said they ask that parcels be planted by June 1, but they will make exceptions for people who miss that date and still want to get involved.

Unlike the Aspen Community Garden, there is still plenty of space for newcomers in the Basalt garden and Hottel said that a full quarter of the garden has never been used, although she added that the soil would need some work to be planting-ready.

The history of the Basalt Community Garden goes back to 2012, when a group of locals who had started a 15-plot garden on Homestead Drive was offered space to start a larger garden in the then-new Grace-Shehi open space near Basalt High School.

“The goal was just to provide a community garden that people could come to,” said Gerry Terwilliger, who was among this group of founders. “It’s something different about someone growing stuff. It’s not hard work but it’s very satisfying.”

Terwilliger said that they were able to get grants, including one from Aspen Skiing Co. to help develop the garden space and the town of Basalt provided the water. Since then the garden has grown and is now run by the garden manager and a board of six, which Terwilliger sits on.

Both Terwilliger and Hottel said that a big part of the draw for the garden is its community aspect. Plot holders are expected to follow a set of guidelines in order to have a space in the garden; one of which is committing four volunteer hours to the maintenance of the garden.

To help with this, the board organizes volunteer days, which Hottel said are the best days for people to meet and interact with their garden neighbors. Gardeners are also encouraged to place yellow stakes next to crops that they have an abundance of so that people can take some and ensure nothing goes to waste. And at the end of the summer, there is a community picnic where folks are encouraged to bring a dish made with the fruits of their plot.

“It gives you a chance to make friends for the season,” said Molly Mix, who is in her fourth year with a plot. “I’ve met people who are my neighbors who I see every year now. It’s a fun social aspect with people I wouldn’t otherwise meet.”

Mix, who is a local fishing guide and baker at Gwyn’s High Alpine, said that since she lives in a condo upvalley the Basalt garden gives her a space to get outside and spend an afternoon. She even calls it a “profitable hobby” because of how many vegetables she’s able to grow every year.

The one thing that all three plot holders emphasized was how much the gardeners learn from one another each season. Hottel even creates a weekly newsletter which includes community recommendations, recipes and advice for other gardeners.

If all this sounds like the perfect way to get down and dirty this summer, you can check out the garden guidelines and application form. The guidelines include some rules to keep the garden clean and maintained, like weeding, no dogs and removing all trash. Gardeners are also encouraged to walk or bike to the garden and it is a little bit off the beaten path.

The fee for the plots is $40 for a standard plot of 80 square feet, with an additional $.50 per square foot after that. There is also a $100 deposit to ensure that the guidelines are followed, which will be returned after the completion of the volunteer day. For questions and more information, contact Elyse Hottel at basaltcommunitygardens@gmail.com.

“People in this valley tend to be very connected to nature, so this is just another outlet,” Hottel said. “To grow something is very rewarding.”