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Basalt Prepares To Plant Urban, Edible Food Forest

Even though snow is ankle deep and winter’s far from over, gardeners in Basalt are gearing up for spring. This year, it’ll be hard to miss a new project just off Highway 82. A Town park will be transformed into a food forest or, an edible, urban garden. Aspen Public Radio’s Marci Krivonen explains.

"We are ready to go!"

Lisa DiNardo is the Town of Basalt’s Horticulturist. She’s in charge of beautifying Basalt’s public spaces and this year, there’s a new challenge: a food forest bordering the round-about at the entrance to Old Town.

"As you’re coming around the round-about, directly northeast is a park. It’s Ponderosa Park and it’s a perfect location," she says smiling.

Right now, the park has a few dirt paths criss-crossing it but, later this year it’ll become a thick garden with foods like kale, tomatoes, pears and apples. This isn’t your average garden. It’ll be managed by the Town and it’s primarily meant to educate people. Stephanie Syson is the Town’s sustainable agriculture consultant.

"It’s an educational garden that’s available to demonstrate wise practices for our region and varieties of food that grow well here - how to manage them, how to keep them going in a healthy way," she says.

Guided tours and workshops will be held there and signs will point out different plants and best growing practices, like how to keep out weeds and make the most of your irrigation water. Syson says it’s meant to build community and...

"...to be able to facilitate an educational site for the area’s schools, so that each school doesn’t have to worry about the cost and upkeep of their own garden but the teachers can use this space as a living laboratory."

Unlike a modern orchard where just one kind of plant is grown in a row, this space will be different. It’ll borrow old gardening practices and be packed full of different crops. The diversity, says Syson, makes the food system healthier so, the crops will be better prepared to handle a cold winter.

"We’re trying to look at nature and see how nature does things so well, and then try to mimic that in a way that provides for more of our desires and our needs, so more food crops and more medicine crops."

Seeds from the garden will also be collected and taken to the library, where people can check them out and use them at home. Town Horticulturist Lisa DiNardo says the idea is to get local residents to take the practices learned at the garden to their backyards.

"I think that’s a huge part of it, is the teachable moment: this is the variety, this is how you grow it. And so, it’s the actual growing yourself and harvesting and having this as a resource - coming to this garden," she says.

The women are ordering plants now and leaves and wood chips collected in the fall are waiting to be used at the garden. They plan to start planting as soon as the snow melts.

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