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TWIN FALLS • Those crocus blooms already coloring some Magic Valley flower beds might have you thinking ahead to tender peas and garden-fresh peppers.

Don’t have a plot to call your own? No worries. There are community gardens you can stick a shovel into close to home. In these gardens, anyone can rent a plot for the growing season and keep — or donate — the harvest it produces.

Gooding Community Garden

Last year the new Gooding Community Garden had an impact far greater than its acre-and-a-half size. In its first harvest, the garden produced an estimated 6,000 pounds of produce, said Eric Moore, who got the garden off the ground. Instead of the high school FFA purchasing ears of corn to resell for fundraising, it used a third-acre of the community garden to raise the crop, learning agronomics and making more money along the way.

The garden is behind the U.S. Food and Drug Administration building in Gooding where Moore works, although it’s not affiliated with the agency.

The garden proved so popular that the number of 20-by-25-foot garden plots available this year will increase from 18 to 25. Garden plots for the disabled are also available, Moore said; an Eagle Scout project built raised beds to accommodate those with mobility issues.

A butterfly greenhouse is planned this year, Moore said, which will add to the visual experience and assist in pollination. “We’re working with a (University of Idaho) entomologist on the specifics of the plan.”

Farmers’ donations in tilling the soil and giving compost and corporate donations of cash and equipment “mean there is no cost and we have shovels, buckets, gloves, hoes, Master Gardeners, hand tools … there are no barriers. If you don’t speak English we will find someone who speaks your language and help you. This garden is for the entire community,” he said.

The garden is open year-round. Information: Moore at 934-8481, ext. 112.

College of Southern Idaho

Demand continues to outstrip plot availability at CSI’s community garden.

Ag professor Jim Wilson said about a dozen folks remain on the waiting list for one of the 25-by-50-foot garden spots.

“Typically 25-30 gardeners come back year after year, so there is a possibility that those on the waiting list will get their chance at a garden plot this year,” Wilson said.

When will would-be gardeners find out whether they should plan on cultivating sweet corn, cherry tomatoes and green beans alongside everyone from elderly garden hobbyists to refugees? Soon, Wilson said. “We moved the registration deadline up this year. People who plan on coming back need to have their letters back by March 16 so we can notify those on the waiting list of an opening.”

The garden has a tentative opening date of April 15, and water will be available May 1, depending on weather. The plot fee remains $40. Information: 732-6401.

Twin Falls city

With a bit of luck, Twin Falls residents will have another gardening option this spring.

The city of Twin Falls formed a committee last year to explore community gardens on public property and looked at the possibility of gardening on a portion of the city’s Harrison Park.

Councilwoman and committee liaison Rebecca Mills-Sojka said concerns about tearing up park space doomed that plan as infeasible, but the committee is pursuing other options, including use of county-owned land for a large, single-space community garden or the city administering a program with several smaller garden areas throughout Twin Falls.

Discovering the right property with water rights is key, and Mills-Sojka said water costs will be a factor in determining garden lot fees. She said the committee is drafting a policy to present to the full City Council soon.

“Hopefully, we’ll have all the pieces together so gardens will be ready this spring,” she said. “There has been a lot of work going into this effort and at finding the right land.”

Wood River Sustainability Center

The donation of an unused lot by resident Craig Johnson led to the creation of a community garden at the Sustainability Center (308 S. River St., Hailey), ready for use this season.

Manager Travis Komar said the plots are the perfect alternative for Wood River Valley’s more urban dwellers dealing with the space limitations of an apartment or chalet.

The garden has 4-by-4-foot and 8-by-8-foot filled, raised beds — first come, first served. The center also offers free assistance in layout planning and the use of a gardening library. It plans an array of beginner and advanced gardening classes and offers for sale organic composts, seeds and seedlings, books, manuals and garden supplies.

Member and customer feedback drove the desire to develop a community garden at the Sustainability Center. Komar said: “thankfully … we have an opportunity to help people gain a portion of food independence for themselves.” Information: 309-3360.

The Hope Garden

The Hope Garden (corner of Walnut and First Avenue, Hailey) is fighting hunger one vegetable sprout at a time. The garden was developed for The Hunger Coalition in 2010 with a $28,500 Nancy Eccles and Homer M. Hayward Foundation grant.

The facility doesn’t rent garden space but encourages residents to embrace their green thumbs and volunteer.

Six raised garden beds were planted last year with more slated for development this year. Signs identify the planted delicacies: strawberries, raspberries, perennial herbs, tomatoes, cabbage, carrots and squash, to name a few. The harvest will be folded into existing coalition hunger-relief efforts such as the backpack program, which discreetly slips weekend meals home for kids, and its food bank.

The coalition’s website (thehungercoalition.org) encourages the public to visit the garden but take care (and not touch the plants) when meandering the pathways.

Information about volunteering: garden and education manager Hallie Reikowsky, 788-0121, ext. 311.

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