Gardening is always a gamble. It’s a partnership with Mother Nature, said Annie Spencer, one of the participants in the Payson Community Garden project.
This year, Mother Nature has not been the most cooperative of partners. A damp May and lower temperatures than usual for June have stunted the growth of early crops in the Community Garden. Then Mother Nature released some of her more destructive creatures on the site. This past weekend, javelina dined on a buffet of young plants, severely damaging several of the seven 100-square-foot plots.
“You just start over,” Spencer said.
The invitation to participate in the project went out in January.
“Before any gardeners called, Pat Graser called and offered us this site,” said JoAnne Roethlein, coordinator of the project.
That offer helped the project clear what was anticipated as being its most difficult hurdle — finding a place to make the garden, Roethlein said.
Graser has been a resident of the Rim Country since 1978. Her late husband, Chuck, had gardened the site for many years, according to Roethlein. So the group had little to do to enhance the soil. All they did was add some horse manure donated by one of the project participants who could not do a garden.
Roethlein’s son, John, sketched out the individual garden plots. There are seven sites in different configurations, but all are 100 square feet.
Diane Arnold and Donna Stull made a raised bed for their site. They both have gardens at home, but also wanted to take part in the Community Garden project. They have corn and sunflowers, herbs herbs and tomatoes among other things in their plot.
Heather Werlinger and Richard Shaw with the Friends in Christ program at Mount Cross Lutheran Church were growing peppers, eggplants and squash with the help of their teacher, Spencer. Their plot had substantial damage from the javelina, so they are making plans to replant.
Spencer is growing lima beans, tomatoes, snow peas, onions, radishes and four o’clocks.
Mary Fitzpatrick is gardening with Erin Huffman as a Big Brothers Big Sisters project.
“I let Erin choose most of what we planted,” Fitzpatrick said. They have yellow squash, zucchini, cantaloupe, watermelon, pumpkin, peppers and flowers.
Roethlein is also a participant in the garden. She is growing tomatoes, peppers, squash, lettuce and radishes, plus flowers, including sweet peas planted at the base of a decorative windmill.
She is one of three solo gardeners in the project, the rest are working in partnership. There was so much interest in the project, they had to turn people away, but they were so inspired, they went out and did their own gardens, Roethlein said.
The participants had to commit to working their gardens from May 1 through October and not using any poisons or chemicals in maintaining their plants.
“We didn’t know each other when we started, but we all helped each other out,” Roethlein said.
Some hope to have produce to bring to the upcoming Farmers Market at the Community Presbyterian Church.
There will be co-op table for small gardeners to sell their produce and other gardeners are encouraged to do co-ops or partnerships of their own to share their excess produce.
John and Lorian Roethlein are coordinating the Farmers Market, which will open Saturday, July 4 in the parking lot of the Presbyterian Church, 800 W. Main St., Payson. The scheduled hours are from 8 a.m. to noon every Saturday through October.
Participants include growers with plots to acreage. The goods scheduled for sale are goat cheese, fudge, honey, jams/jellies, naturally sweetened fruit butters, eggs and baked goods. And there will be an ice cream vendor for the kids or young at heart.
Assistance is being sought in the following areas: farmers of food or flowers; plot gardeners who want to co-op; people looking to work or volunteer on market days; leadership in entertainment; groups interested in learning more from speakers about the project; sponsorship or donations of tables, sun canopies, certified scales or other market items; and any other way you may want to participate. To help or learn more, contact John Roethlein at (928) 472-2249 or Lorian Roethlein at (928) 468-0961.