Grow Fruits & Veggies in Abundance with the Duluth Community Garden Program

It’s Thrifty, Nutritious and Fun!

Just thinking about nature’s bounty makes our mouths water: crisp, tart red apples. Plump, juicy raspberries. Sweet, crunchy carrots.

The reasons for growing your own garden are as diverse as the fruits and veggies themselves. Some folks garden to save money. Others like the self-reliance of growing their own food. Nutrition is another great incentive. Although our growing season is a tad shorter (okay, a lot shorter) than most, you can easily grow your own bounty, right here in Duluth.

Duluth Community Garden Program

Whatever your reason, gardening is a wonderful way to connect to the earth while providing wholesome, delicious food for your family. And, if your thumb is more … brown than green, the Duluth Community Garden Program (DCGP) is here to help.

Emily Richey, Duluth Community Garden Program Director, shares that the DCGP offers generous plots of land across the city that you can lease, visit as often as you’d like and use to create the garden of your dreams. They even offer a “library,” where they lend gardening and food preservation tools, sell seeds and connect you with a community of gardeners ready to share their tips and best practices.

The program’s office is located inside of Duluth’s Damiano Center. It was established in 1977 by a group of like-minded community organizers who converted empty lots across the city into garden plots.

About 1/3 of the land is now owned by the program. Another 1/3 of the gardens are on plots they lease from the city. And the final 1/3 is either private property the owner has generously offered to share with DCGP, or county land.

The growing season can be adjusted as necessary, but typically, plots are rented out starting at the end of April. Gardeners are asked to have their gardens fully harvested and cleaned up by November 1.

Garden Logistics

There are a total of 18 DCGP garden sites across Duluth. These sites are further subdivided into 255, 400 square foot plots gardeners can use to grow their favorite fruits, veggies and herbs.

Plots are leased on a sliding scale, with a starting fee of $35/year. This fee includes access to advice from experienced gardeners, use of tools and food preservation equipment and a quarterly newsletter.

Each garden has a site coordinator; usually someone who gardens at the site. The coordinator can help you figure out logistics such as back-up plans to water your garden if you are away. The DCGP also has its own board of directors, and plenty of volunteers to keep the program running smoothly.

Bringing the Community Together

A big focus of the program is inviting the community to participate. Many people would love to grow their own bounty, but live in an apartment or have other barriers to gardening. DCGP can help cross those bridges. “Our goal and the reason we were founded was to provide access to healthy food for everyone in the community,” Richey says.

Thus, most of the gardens in the program are located in the food deserts of West Duluth, Lincoln Park and the Central Hillside, where it can be more challenging to find fresh produce. These neighborhoods also have more apartment buildings, where tenants may not be able to grow gardens in their own yard.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

It can be an exciting challenge to figure out how many different items we can grow right here in Duluth. Richey herself has a plot located in the Apple Tree Circle Garden, near the Lake Superior Zoo. “I grew some eggplants last season,” she shares proudly. “And, I ended up with way too many peppers and tomatoes.”

“I also know of a few people who grew watermelons, Russian black currants, brightly colored heirloom tomatoes and purple potatoes. There were even some rumors of okra being grown,” she says with a laugh.

Like Printing Your Own Money

Growing a garden can be a soul-nourishing activity. The fresh air and exercise, along with all of that scrumptious produce, will keep your body fit and strong. And, if you are on a tight budget, growing your own produce is a great way to help make ends meet.

“Growing your own food is kind of like printing your own money,” Richey says. “You plant a few seeds and can wind up with hundreds of pounds of food.”

The Duluth Community Garden Program’s office is located inside the Damiano Center building, located at 206 West 4th Street in Duluth. For more information, call (218) 722-4583, or visit duluthcommunitygarden.org.

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