Community garden organizer: All that we need now are growers

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Plenty of spots avaialble in new space for planting

By Jeremy Johnson

FORT LUPTON — The new Fort Lupton Community Garden is close to having everything budding horticulturists need: 35 planting plots, including a trio of raised beds; three water stations capable of covering every inch of the garden; compost bins; topsoil stations; a tool shed, benches, and even a covered sandbox for the kids.



“We’ve done a lot of work and created a nice space for people,” said the project’s lead volunteer, Charlie Harnett, who is also involved with the Adams County Gardening Coop and is vice president of the Front Range Young Farmers.

But according to Harnett, though the roots for success have been planted, there’s still plenty of room for the garden to grow.

“Well, everybody seems to be interested, but then not so much,” he said. “I’ve had a hard time getting volunteers.”

And participants. 

Harnett said in an interview June 5 that he knows community gardening can be successful because the Adams County Gardening Coop boasts 22 community gardens in various municipalities throughout Adams County. However, Harnett said only about five of the 35 designated plots at the Fort Lupton Community Garden have been reserved — a far cry from what he’d like to see.

“People like the idea and seem to get excited, but it’s just hard to get people out to do it,” Harnett added. “People are busy these days — I understand that — but so am I.”


Grassroots grown

Harnett said the Fort Lupton community garden has been a grassroots effort from the start. 

Using donated land where an abandoned home once sat, all the initial groundbreaking was performed by volunteers who broke ground and dug up the concrete foundation of the former home, built the security fence around the garden, connected water lines for the spigots and built a stone walkway — all in a day.

Even the materials and equipment have been either donated or found: Harnett’s employer, T-P Enterprises Inc. of Colorado Springs, loaned a tractor and front-end loader for the initial excavation; raised bed and landscape timber was picked up by Harnett following a Thornton Cleanup Day event; Aims College in Fort Lupton is providing the compost bin; Denver Botanical Gardens and the Adams County Gardening Coop donated seeds and seedlings; and a pair of bushes, along with the ornamental flower bed the garden is centered around, came from Harnett’s very own back yard.

The only thing missing from the community garden is the “community.” Harnett said the first community meetings garnered nearly a dozen participants, but said those numbers have since dwindled to only a handful of the most hardcore green thumbs.

Consequently, Harnett said he, his brother and a few others have been working overtime. 

“I’ve been here every Saturday for the last six Saturdays, and some Sundays too,” Harnett said. “We’re definitely hoping to get more interest.”

Meetings for the community garden are every other Wednesday at the Crossroads Church, where Harnett and one of the garden’s other original volunteers, Fort Lupton City Councilman and Weld Re-8 board member Kevin Schwickrath, attend.

Harnett said the group, working on a “tight budget” continues to seek sponsors for materials and labor.


Room to grow

With nearly 30 lots left and plenty of topsoil and manure to fill each one, Harnett said it’s now just a matter of growing the garden — both metaphorically and literally.

And while only a few of the plots are raised beds, Harnett said they have the materials to make more.

“We’d prefer most of them to be raised beds because people seem to have better luck with raised beds anyway,” Harnett said. “And we have plenty of extra dirt.”

Harnett, who grew up on a farm with an extensive garden, said the planting season has already passed in terms of broccoli, cauliflower and lettuce, but said there’s still plenty of time — and space — for other crops.

“I’ve actually got enough seeds and stuff to fill every plot in here, but I don’t have enough time,” Harnett said, emphasizing the need for more prospective gardeners.

Harnett said it’s easy to use busy schedules as an excuse, but for a guy who carries two phones — one for work and one personal — and oversees maintenance on a fleet of 28 plow trucks, he’s not buying “busy” as an excuse.

“The first year is always the hardest,” he added. “But at least it’s a start.”


Contact Staff Writer Jeremy Johnson at 303-659-2522, ext. 217, or jjohnson@metrowestnewspapers.com.