The community garden is located at 1915 S. Valley Street near the former site of Putting Green and has been in operation for six years.
The community garden continued to be a success long after Putting Greens closed. In 2017, Putting Green terminated its lease with the City of New Ulm for use of the mini-golf course, but the environmental nonprofit chose to continue its work through the community garden.
Community garden manager Emily Korbel said last growing season the garden had 51 plots leased to 34 different gardeners. This year, 75 plots will be available in the garden. Each plot is 25 feet by 4 feet and the rental fee is $40 per plot. These fees include the use of water, mulch and gardening tools. Korbel said shovels, hoes and wheelbarrows are available.
The community garden is entirely organic. Korbel said no pesticides were used as they tried to do natural things. Organic fertilizers that use fishmeal or kelp are popular.
“These fruits and vegetables are better than store-bought,” Korbel said. “Everything else is watered down.”
Korbel said everything a person can expect to see in a garden is grown in one or another of the plots. Gardeners grow a plethora of fruits and vegetables including tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, pumpkins, spaghetti squash, ground cherries, beans, peas, carrots, potatoes and others. Gardeners avoid planting objects that could threaten to overtake the garden, such as mint.
Many people grow flowers instead of food and herbs. The flowers are ideal for pollinators like bees and attract many butterflies. Gardeners are encouraged to plant marigolds as it keeps rabbits away.
The community garden is used by a variety of people. Some are long-time gardeners who needed more space. It is also popular with novice gardeners hoping to learn the ropes before committing to modifying their lawn. The garden is very popular with people who live in apartments or who do not have access to the land.
Many residents of New Ulm cannot garden because deer and other wildlife eat their plants. For this reason, the community garden is surrounded by a deer fence.
There are even gardeners who use the food produced on their plot to buy fresh food. Gardening is an economical endeavor for many because seeds can be purchased cheaply and since the community garden provides other materials, start-up costs are further reduced. The idea is to give everyone the chance to garden and grow healthy produce. In addition, some plots are reserved for the Foodshelf.
Korbel said that as the garden grows from being connected to Putting Greens, they are trying to create more community activities and educational opportunities.
“We have worked with HONU, Allina, United Way, Hy-vee and SHIP,” Korbel said. “A very successful program has been bringing in the New Ulm Public Community School summer program, Kids Connection, gardening and volunteering. We were able to expose a lot of children to gardening and now the public school has its own garden.
The community garden is looking for grants. Overall, the garden has little expense, but there are plans to create raised beds for gardening. Korbel said a raised bed helps keep weeds out and is better for people with disabilities. Other plans are to replace the shed and add shaded structures.
Programming ideas include painting birdhouses, making mason bee houses, painting garden signs, photography lessons, flower arranging lessons and a day of garden games.
The community garden is a success for New Ulm and thrives with help from the community. Wood chips for the driveways are donated by Kraus Tree Service, RVS donates trash cans, D&A Trucking donated pallets to create a composting center, and volunteers help maintain the plots.
Korbel said there are volunteer opportunities for groups, such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and church groups.
Korbel said his family became involved in the garden soon after moving to New Ulm.
“We didn’t have time to garden at home and lived on an old gravel pit,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to bring the family out.”
On February 26, the library hosted a garden planning session for the public to learn about the community garden and review plans for the upcoming season. The event was well attended by local New Ulm gardeners. Mary Fischer began renting two plots last year. “It’s a beautiful space and it really inspires me,” she said. She also praised the layout of the garden.
“One of the most important things about gardening is that it allows people to eat healthier foods and helps them exercise,” Korbel said. “[That’s] two things that most of us could use a little extra help with.
To register, gardeners can go to: Puttinggreen.org or visit the facebook page facebook.com/newulmcommunitygarden.