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City community garden site taking shape; season starts Thursday

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The beds have been built for Fredericksburg's first city-sponsored community garden near Cossey Pond.

Fredericksburg has a full slate for its first year hosting a public community garden site.

The city’s parks and recreation department started taking applications in January for 20 plots at the tip of the old Cossey Water Plant property, which is now being developed as a botanical garden.

Before the end of February, all those plots were full, and Parks & Athletics Division Manager Michael Ward said the department currently has a waiting list for interested gardeners.

The site is in the heart of the downtown neighborhoods, where apartment-dwellers and folks with small yards might not have much space to till the soil.

Gardening season kicks off Thursday. All plots must be planted by May 1, and the season ends Nov. 30. The plots are open to city residents only.

The plots are roughly 10 feet by 20 feet, enough to grow hundreds of pounds of vegetables. All plots are to be organic, and no pesticides or herbicides will be allowed in the community garden.

The $50 plot fees are expected to cover the costs of the program. Garden applicants must also pay a $25 refundable cleanup deposit.

The idea for the gardens came from City Council members, who listed them among their quality of life initiatives. If this season proves successful, it’s possible the city could expand to other sites in years to come.

The concept of the community garden is one that is growing in popularity nationwide, as people seek a more direct connection with their food, and aim to cut costs at the grocery store.

Also in Fredericksburg, Downtown Greens, a nonprofit that has long maintained organic gardens and run educational programs near the intersection of Charles and Dixon streets, also plans to offer community garden plots to the public this year.

Downtown Greens President Bob Lowry said the group is still finalizing plans for this program, but should have more information in the coming weeks.

Two years ago, the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank started working with a region-wide network of community gardens, including locations at the Hazel Hill and Heritage Park apartment complexes in Fredericksburg.

The gardens provide a food source for the residents who work them, and they also help stock the food bank’s shelves with nutritious fresh produce.

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