A young volunteer helps tend to the Gardner Community Garden one weekend in January. Now in its third year, the garden boasts more than 100 plot owners. Submitted photo

A young volunteer helps tend to the Gardner Community Garden one weekend in January. Now in its third year, the garden boasts more than 100 plot owners. Submitted photo

Danedri Thompson
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Spring and the primary planting and growing season is weeks away, but that isn’t stopping Gardner Community Garden volunteers.
“You wouldn’t think we’d be busy in winter. There’s still snow on the ground,” Nicole Janzen, community garden volunteer and organizer, said.
Last weekend, volunteers re-organized some of the garden, located behind Divine Mercy Catholic Church, moving a greenhouse and developing ground for a children’s area and installing a shade sail.
“We’re ordering seeds and getting ready to have a planting party next month,” Janzen said.
The planting party will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Gardner Grange building on the Johnson County Fairgrounds.
“Anybody can come,” Janzen said. “We would love the volunteers. I’ve got a few Gardner Edgerton High School students coming to help, but we will definitely take anyone who wants to help.”
Once planted, the seeds will percolate at the garden’s greenhouse and hopefully develop into hardy plants that can be sold as a fundraiser for the garden during the citywide garage sale in May.
Garden volunteers sold plants, primarily eight different breeds of tomatoes, last year during the garage sale.
“We blew it out of the water last year,” Janzen said. “But we were missing a lot of stuff. We didn’t have flowers or herbs or peppers.”
Unlike many other community gardens, the Gardner garden is run and funded by volunteers with oversight provided by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic civic organization, and the Divine Mercy Catholic Parish.
Janzen contacted the city parks and recreation department’s Jeff Stewart hoping to draft plans for a garden. That same day, members of the Knights of Columbus had contacted Stewart as well.
“They had already done some legwork to get the garden and the land. We connected together. When we sat down to talk – we had plot members and stuff – we said wouldn’t it be great if we had 100 plot owners,” Janzen explained. “The next year it happened. This grew really, really fast.”
The plants aren’t the only things growing at the community garden. The garden itself is expanding too.
The garden received permission to plant on more land this year and Janzen said the goal is to plant a small orchard of fruit trees along the fence that lines West Side Ballpark.
Janzen envisions an orchard with several different kinds of fruit trees in several different sizes, dwarf, medium and tall trees.
It takes a few years for the trees to start producing fruit, but in the meantime, she hopes to create a sponsor campaign, where members of the public can pay to sponsor a fruit tree.
“You could come and pick out your tree, and we would try to get a plaque that says, ‘sponsored by.’ That’s what we’re shooting for,” Janzen said.
The goal is to plant the trees National Arbor Day on April 24.
Organizers hope to add a children’s garden complete with educational programming and a chicken coop this year.
“We’re trying to open the children’s garden on Earth Day, April 22,” she said. “April is going to be huge.”
To that end, they are hosting a pancake breakfast fundraiser on Feb. 15. The breakfast fundraiser will run from 7: 30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Senior Citizen Building in Gardner.