Community Gardeners Play Forward

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Harvest is only one of the treasured moments at the sixth season of Yankton’s community gardens. This article was originally published in the Yankton Press & Dakotan newspaper. Here a few of the gardeners will share about gardening together, about the chance to garden again, and about how far picking beans can play forward.

If you missed other community gardener interviews, see the blog topic “ A Summer In The Garden.” There you will also read about the role the City of Yankton plays in the community gardens.

Julie And Daniel Garden Together

 “Gardening is actually entertainment—it’s a little work—sometimes you get on each others’ nerves because it’s so hot,” Daniel Kortan said.

“It’s worth it for what you get out of it,” Julie Schweigert said. The past three years she and Daniel have selected the same two plots in about the center of the community gardens.

“People beside us are always friendly,” Daniel said. “You get to know who your neighbors are, just like at home. That gentleman there will actually pull weeds that we missed. Last year I exchanged sweet corn with him and he gave me zucchini. I don’t like it but my mom does. It works out for you.”

“Last year I had half a dozen pumpkins ready to carve and someone took them. This year I didn’t plant any,” he said. Now privacy signs are clearly posted and many return gardeners have plots.

“We saw flowers on one of the plots, so we’ll do that next year. It gives you different ideas. (Flowers) draw bees so you want them,” Julie said. They also contribute ideas to other gardeners.

“When we plant tomatoes, we stick them in buckets. I cut the bottoms off. My sister manages the Frying Pan Restaurant. They’re pickle buckets,” he said.

“It protects them in the beginning from wind,” she said. They water the plants in the bucket so the moisture stays near the roots. Later they cage tomatoes to keep them off the ground.

“We started doing this and now you see more buckets around,” he said.

In mid July the tomato plants are deep green and some tomatoes are ripe. Today’s a good harvest day for them: green beans, lettuce, and peppers. They also grow cabbage, potatoes, and onions. Soil is fertile.

“He puts grass clippings on the plot (before they are mass tilled in the spring),” she said.

“At the end of the year, before they till, I put clippings on,” he said. “It’s added fertilizer.”

“Something we do is try something new every year. Celery is awesome,” she said. They planted it in a low spot in their plots and rain helped with moisture the celery require.

Daniel shares a tip for overhead watering that’s a lot easier than hand watering. He cable-tied the sprinkler to the platform.


“I got a steel fence post from Menards and a piece of old wood board and cut it into thirds, put screws in, put a flat board (little platform) on top and cable-tied the sprinkler on top. It takes the wind. It doesn’t water two plots at once; I’ll put in another,” he said.

“I told myself I’d never garden,” Daniel said. They grew up on farms. “It was so much work. Now that I’m older, it’s relaxing more than anything.”

“Gardening is something fun we do together,” Julie said.



Gardening With Back Problems

         Aves Sejnoha signed up for one of the two raised bed gardens, about 2 ft. x 8 ft., at the community garden site. The beds were installed on a cement pad for all ability access through Healthy Yankton and purchased by a corporate Hy-Vee Food Store grant. This was the first full season for raised beds.

“I have back problems,” Sejnoha said. “It prevents me from bending down. That’s why I now have an upright garden. It’s so convenient. My daughter came down and helped me tie up the tomatoes.”

So far (in mid July) I’ve gotten a couple of tomatoes and cucumbers,” she said.

“It’s working good,” she said. She noticed that the V-shaped base of the bed doesn’t allow as much soil as in a flat-bottomed bed. This became apparent when her daughter staked the tomatoes.

She has two tomato plants, three peppers, peas that are almost finished bearing now, and cucumber vines.

“I come every other day to water whether it needs it or not,” she said. Weather has been hot. “Today I’m using a watering can instead of a hose.” The hose has disappeared.

“My daughter said I should water every day, but I work at Avera Majestic Bluffs three days a week.”

“I just had the first ripened tomato at home. My word, I’m enjoying it. It’s the first time I’ve done gardening on my own. My husband always did it, but he passed 3 ½

years ago. My daughter had a little garden in the back yard. I decided this year I would do it myself.”

“Because these are raised beds I can pull weeds or do what I have to do,” she said. “ I’m going to try this again next year. I’ll put tomatoes in the middle where it’s deepest.” She noticed her neighbor’s raised bed had tomatoes down the center and had cucumbers hanging off the bed to conserve space.

“Let the tomatoes get ripe. I’ll eat them,” she said. “I enjoy tomatoes. I can eat only so many. I’ll need some to pass on to others.”

Someone had brought a bit of yard art and positioned it at the base of her raised bed.

“It’s worked perfect for me. I’ve had few weeds; they don’t get big,” Sejnoha said.

Aves Sejnoha has some of the first tomatoes ripening in her raised bed garden at the community garden site.


Next year she plans to conserve space differently in the bed. These raised beds are in their first full season of use, thanks to Healthy Yankton members, Yankton Parks & Recreation, and a grant from corporate Hy-Vee Food Stores. A cement base helps mobility.

Help For Salsa

         Jean and Mike Binder are doing their part at the garden plot for Barb and Glen Mechtenberg. Jean and Barb are sisters. Mechtenbergs are on a bike trip in Southeast Minnesota to raise money for Habitat For Humanity. Their ride is 500 miles. Binders get tomatoes for salsa.

“Mechtenbergs did all the planning and what’s in the garden,” Mike said.

“They’ve been gone for a week and asked us to water and pick beans,” Jean said. “We’ve had a lot of delicious beans. Lettuce too. Barb makes pickled green beans. I’m sure there’s a picking left. Next will be the tomatoes. We’re definitely enjoying the fruits of her labor.”

“We probably get most of her tomatoes because it takes a lot to make salsa,” he said.

“We used to grow tomatoes at our house but the soil isn’t so productive. Look around here. People put a lot of work into the community gardens. It’s a very nice thing the city does, “ Jean said.

“Just looking around here, everyone takes good care of his or her gardens.” Most produce is picked and most weeds are removed. “They’ve got a lot invested. We’ll go home and eat these green French fries,” Mike said.

Note: Barb and Glen Mechtenberg, Tom and Jane Gilmore, and Guy and Liz Larson made up the Yankton team for the Habitat For Humanity 2015 biking event. The team raised $28,500 for the local chapter with this ride, donations, and strawberry pies. Larsons also provided Binders with extra tomatoes for their salsa.


Healthy Yankton Volunteers

Hats off to the Healthy Yankton member volunteers who administer the Yankton’s community gardens in partnership with the City of Yankton and the agencies that support their efforts:

Sr. Julie Peak: Sacred Heart Monastery         Laura Larson: Community Member

Susan Thorson: Mount Marty College          Brittany Orr: City of Yankton

Angie O’Connor: Avera Sacred Heart            Lois Halbur: Community Member

Cindy Nelson: Missouri Valley Master Gardeners

Yankton’s community gardens’ plots were all filled this season. According to Angie O’Connor, Healthy Yankton member, 219 garden plots were rented and planted.

Each plot is 12 ft. x 18 ft., and has water available for the tilled site. Two raised gardens, 2 ft. x 8 ft., were also available thanks to Hy-Vee Food Stores grant and Healthy Yankton funds. Additional volunteers help Healthy Yankton with the gardens.

Registration for 2016 Yankton community gardens will be about January for returning gardeners and March for new gardeners. See “Healthy Yankton” Facebook page. Notice will be submitted to Yankton Press & Dakotan and will be posted at the gardens on West City Limits Rd. Questions? Call (605) 668-8590

“Healthy Yankton would like to thank all of the individuals that garden with us as it brings our group great joy to see your success and creativity each season!” O’Connor said.



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