Members of the community are invited to participate in Wadena Community Garden activities this year either as a gardener or a volunteer.

The new Wadena Community Garden will kick off with a work session on Earth Day, Friday, April 22.

The garden project started in 2008, with Wadena-Deer Creek High School senior Dane Hoffman. He wanted to start a community garden on the north side of Sunnybrook Park for an Honor Society project. After receiving the go-ahead from the Wadena City Council, a water line was put in place, along with a deer fence.

Unfortunately, the garden has been unused for several years now and last year was used by just three gardeners.

By accident, Marilyn Hofland, the SNAP-Ed Educator for Wadena County University of Minnesota Extension, discovered the community garden. She ran the Perham Community Garden for 20 years and now that her job is based in Wadena County she wanted to start something similar in Wadena.

"It's a perfect fit with my program, giving access to healthy food and a great physical activity to those who either lack the skills, tools and land or finances to start a garden themselves," she said. "I have helped dozens of families over the years learn gardening skills who may not have ever put a seed in the ground before. More seniors are participating as well and while they may have the skills they might not always have the resources for a small garden."

Both the Wadena and Perham gardens will use the square foot gardening technique, which enables gardeners to plant their entire 4 x 8 foot plot with vegetables, without having to leave room for rows. The Wadena garden will also use a deep mulching technique to make watering more efficient and weeding minimal.

"I really want this to be a community-led project and so far I've had a number of people step up, which is great," Hofland said.

The garden is drawing from the expertise of Ed Lewis, who heads up the WDC School greenhouse, along with his wife, Louise, and Kent Scheer from Green Island in Wadena. Wadena-Deer Creek students will also help get the garden plots ready for planting when they help on Wednesday, April 27 as part of the Day of Caring.

"I am so fortunate to have folks wanting to get on board from the beginning," Hofland said.

The city has also helped and some small donations have come in from local service organizations including the Wadena Lions Club. Hofland gives credit to Dane Hoffman for the concept of starting the garden in 2008.

To kick off this season of gardening, Hofland will need additional service groups, church groups, garden club members or individuals to volunteer. They are needed not only to show participants how to plant but to get the raised beds in place, haul dirt and occasionally water. In the future, help will be needed with grant writing.

People interested in participating in the garden project with their own small raised bed garden can call the University of Minnesota Extension office for Wadena County at (218) 631-7794. Planting with a seasoned gardener will happen at the end of May or early June. Hofland is hoping to secure additional grant funding to provide seeds, plants and tools needed for 18 small raised bed gardens so that it's free for participants. Hofland is also looking for financial donations as well as seeds, plants, new or used tools and a shed.

Those interested in volunteering to help set up the garden are invited to show up from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Friday, April 22 on the north side of Sunnybrook Park.

Call Hofland with any questions or for more information at (218) 631-7794.