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It took off like the weeds greening up the countryside. With a little more than a month’s planning, volunteers and donors gave root to the inaugural Payson Community Garden last spring. And it is coming back for a second year this month.

The Rim Country’s changeable March weather postponed the March 9 opening of the Payson Community Garden to Saturday, March 16.

The goal for the original garden, and this year’s edition, is three-fold: supplement the food banks with fresh produce; inspire residents to start their own gardens at home; and cultivate community spirit.

The goal of helping local food banks was a smashing success; once the plants started producing, organizers were able to provide bountiful harvests twice a week.

The garden site is next to the Church of the Nazarene on Tyler Parkway.

Prior to the opening on March 16, only 50, 6-feet-by-25-feet plots, out of 165 on the site, were still available for $60. Soil, water, security and advice are included in that price, however, the water will not be turned on until April to avoid the risk of freezing the pipes.

Organizers have a limited number of tools and equipment to loan to participants, but they recommend they bring their own tools and they must supply their own seeds and/or seedlings.

New this year, are a limited number of beds elevated high enough to be accessed by wheelchair-bound participants. The elevated beds are the work of Payson High School students in Career and Technology Preparation classes under the direction of Richard Alvarez.

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Area residents are coming together again this year to take part in the Payson Community Garden. The garden’s bountiful harvest is shared with local food banks to help those in need.

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High school students built a limited number of beds elevated high enough to be accessed by wheelchair-bound participants. Garden plots are 6-feet-by-25-feet and cost $60.

Classes planned to help garden participants make the most of their plots will be offered at 8 a.m. every Saturday at the garden, or if there is threatening weather, inside the Church of the Nazarene.

Garden organizers have worked with the University of Arizona Extension Service representative Chris Jones and Glen McCombs, owner of Plant Fair Nursery in Star Valley, to provide a complete set of courses for the beginning gardeners.

Starting in April, the garden will be open weekdays from 5 p.m. until dark and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and closed Sundays. Also in April, organizers will be asking for garden monitors to sign up.

Classes

March 23: Succession and Inter-plant Planting by Chris Jones

March 30: Hydroponic Gardening by Paul Hicken

April 6: Water Systems by Glen McCombs — water available to gardeners at purple faucets. This is also a Garden Workday, from 9 a.m. to noon.

April 13: Seeds and Transplanting by Chris Jones

Five easy steps to low maintenance, eco-friendly landscape

Gardening expert Melinda Myers provides a plan to transform your landscape

It’s possible to create a beautiful landscape and be kind to the environment even with a busy schedule and staying within budget.

“All it takes is a bit of planning and a few low maintenance strategies,” says gardening expert and author Melinda Myers.

Myers recommends these five strategies to create a low maintenance eco-friendly landscape this season.

• Be Waterwise — Save money on the water bill, time spent watering and this precious resource, water. Start by growing drought-tolerant plants suited to your growing environment. Once established, they will only need watering during extended dry spells.

• Mulch with shredded leaves, evergreen needles, woodchips or other organic matter to conserve moisture, reduce weeds and improve the soil as they decompose.

• Fertilize with a low nitrogen fertilizer that promotes slow steady growth instead of excessive greenery that requires more water. Plus, it won’t burn even during drought.

• Put rainwater to work all season long by using rain barrels to capture rainwater off your roof or directly from the sky.

• Recycle Yard Waste — Minimize the amount of yard waste produced, reuse what you can in other areas of the landscape and recycle the rest as compost.

These are just a few strategies that will save time bagging, hauling and disposing of yard debris. And better yet, implementing this strategy will save money and time spent buying and transporting soil amendments, since it will be created right in the back yard.

Start by leaving grass clippings on the lawn. The short clippings break down quickly, adding organic matter, nutrients and moisture to the soil. Grow trees suited to the growing conditions and available space. That means less pruning and fewer trimmings that will need to be managed.

Make compost at home.

Recycle yard waste into compost. Put plant waste into a heap and let it rot. Yes, it really is that simple. The more effort put into the process, the quicker the results.

Do not add insect-infested or diseased plant material or perennial weeds like quack grass, annual weeds gone to seed, or invasive plants. Most compost piles are not hot enough to kill these pests. And do not add meat, dairy or bones that can attract rodents.

Manage pests in harmony with nature.

A healthy plant is the best defense against insects and disease. Select the most pest-resistant plants suited to the growing conditions and provide proper care.

Check plants regularly throughout the growing season. It is easier to control a few insects than the hundreds that can develop in a week or two. And when problems arise, look for the most eco-friendly control. Start by removing small infestations by hand. Consider traps, barriers, and natural products if further control is needed. And as always be sure to read and follow label directions carefully.

Energy wise landscape design

— Use landscape plantings to keep homes warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. Homes will have a more comfortable temperature throughout the seasons and energy costs will be reduced.

Plant trees on the east and west side of a house to shade windows in the summer and let the sun shine in and warm it up through the south-facing windows in winter.

Shade air conditioners, so they run more efficiently and be sure to collect and use any water they produce for container gardens.

Incorporate these changes into gardening routines and habits over time. Soon these and many more strategies that help save time and money while being kind to the environment will seem to occur automatically.

About the author

Nationally known gardening expert, TV/radio host, author and columnist Melinda Myers has more than 30 years of horticulture experience and has written over 20 gardening books, including “Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening.” She hosts the nationally syndicated “Melinda’s Garden Moment” segments which air on over 115 TV and radio stations throughout the U.S. She is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and writes the twice monthly “Gardeners’ Questions” newspaper column. Melinda also has a column in Gardening How-to magazine. Melinda hosted “The Plant Doctor” radio program for over 20 years as well as seven seasons of “Great Lakes Gardener” on PBS. She has written articles for Better Homes and Gardens and Fine Gardening and was a columnist and contributing editor for Backyard Living magazine. Melinda has a mas

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