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Liberty Lake residents snap up community garden beds

“These go really fast,” said Tait Hunter about the reservations that she will take in spring for the raised garden beds in the city of Liberty Lake on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
“These go really fast,” said Tait Hunter about the reservations that she will take in spring for the raised garden beds in the city of Liberty Lake on Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

There is still time left for Liberty Lake residents to reserve a raised garden bed in one of two community gardens, but not much time.

The beds became available Jan. 1 and used to be fully reserved by April – then March, then February. This year there are only a handful of gardens left.

“I’d say we’ll be done in the next week,” said Tait Hunter, an administrative assistant for the city. “This is absolutely the fastest year.”

There are 16 raised garden beds inside a fenced-off area in Rocky Hill Park and another 21 beds at the city arboretum on Country Vista Drive behind City Hall. Six of the beds at Rocky Hill Park were recently added. “It’s definitely helped,” Hunter said. “Rocky Hill is kind of a tight-knit neighborhood.”

The gardens have been around for years and there have been several expansions. The one in Rocky Hill park opened in 2010 and the one in the arboretum opened two years after that.

There’s not much happening in the beds at the arboretum right now. Most have been cleaned out with some bits of plant debris left, along with a stray radish or two. One bed that was planted entirely full of ornamental grass is still full, the brown blades of grass rustling in the breeze.

The city has a horticulturist come in every spring to clean up the beds, get rid of any weeds and replace the organic soil as needed, Hunter said. Both the gardens are organic and growers are not allowed to use any pesticides. Yields are generally good, and last year the garden was bursting with tomatoes, she added.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had people come in and say they haven’t had a good yield,” she said.

The beds are $25 per year and can be reserved only by residents who live within Liberty Lake’s city limits. The city provides water, but people must provide their own seeds and do their own weeding during the growing season.

People are free to plant what they like, and most plant vegetables, Hunter said.

“Some people just grow flowers and they look great,” she said. “It’s so easy to grow vegetables.”

The beds are first come, first served. People have to visit City Hall to reserve a bed after Jan. 1. They can request the same bed they had last year, but there are no guarantees, Hunter said. “Nothing is saved,” she said. “Nothing rolls over.”

It’s often the same people who reserve beds every year, but Hunter said she saw some new faces last summer.

“We’ve had some new people,” she said. “We had a lot of apartment people this year. As someone who lives in an apartment, you can’t really do much on the patio other than a bin of tomatoes.”

Hunter said she sees a wide variety of people at the gardens – parents, grandparents, single people, married couples – who want to put some homegrown vegetables on the table. “It’s a big deal (in) the community,” she said. “The demand is high.”

With the garden beds being snapped up faster every year, Hunter said there have been discussions about adding new beds or a new community garden, but nothing has been decided. There has been talk about adding a garden to the new Orchard Park in the River District north of Interstate 90 during Phase 2 of construction.

“At least one more would be great, with 10 or 15 more beds,” she said. “Hopefully in the future we’ll be able to add some more somewhere.”

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