Grower Profile: A Home Gardener’s “Community Garden”
The vegetable garden is about ¼ acre in size, adorned with marigolds and sunflowers, and neatly packed with every type of vegetable imaginable, all grown by eight different families, as well as the owner, Orem resident Rick Lewis. “We’ve been growing vegetables here for over 35 years, and this year, we decided to open up the garden to families in need. The partnership has worked out pretty well,” says Lewis.
Master Gardener Rick Lewis bought his 2-acre property in 1973, and over the years, has raised sheep, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, milk cows, goats, and tree fruits. Now, half of the property is horse pasture, but the ¼-acre of vegetables has remained constant. Newer fruit tree varieties now border his vegetable plot. He also added filberts and walnuts, raspberries, and five varieties of grapes including ‘Concord,’ ‘Interlaken,’ and ‘Ruby Red.’ “The grapes are a favorite of ours. Four rows about 100 ft. long trained on a wire trellis, plus 2 more rows about 50 ft. long. I trim the north side in the fall and do most of the picking after the first good frost. Both the grape and raspberry prunings are run through a shredder in the spring and then used for mulch.”
When they decided to take on the “challenge” of sharing their vegetable plot, Lewis selected the families now gardening on his land from the LDS church ward in which he and his wife assist. “Many of these couples are young, and novice gardeners, so they are learning as they go.” The Lewises are their teachers. They have provided them with Extension handouts, and patiently taught them the ABC’s of vegetable growing, even down to the importance of weeding and cultivating the soil. “We came over tonight to get supper,” said the couple who have planted the most vegetables. All have expressed appreciation for the help and training they have received.
He also tries other techniques, like interplanting crops for insect control and to attract beneficials. He is trying basil between tomato plants to repel hornworm and aphids, and to attract pollinators, and marigolds are scattered throughout. He keeps the plants healthy, too, with mulch, compost, horse manure and an ingenious flood-watering system. He installed large, underground pipes that circulate the irrigation water to underground cisterns. When they fill, water flows to above ground PVC pipes with large holes cut at the head of each row (gated irrigation pipe), evenly and efficiently distributing the water. “The only drawback is getting the gardeners to keep their rows cultivated and weed-free so that the water will run down the entire row,” which is about 130 feet.
This summer, Lewis’ garden has been a “monitoring site” for Utah’s IPM vegetable advisory program, which includes weekly scouting visits, and a half-dozen bright orange delta traps scattered about. At his garden we trap for diamondback moth (2 caught so far all summer), variegated cutworm, beet armyworm, western yellow-striped armyworm, cabbage looper, and pale western cutworm. “If USU can use this site to learn more about what fruit and vegetable pests we have in Utah, then I am happy to cooperate,” said Lewis. Thanks Rick!