Garden is payback for help

Rich Nye waters newly planted seeds in a garden that he helped prepare for Catholic Outreach of the Grand Valley. The garden at Second Street

Not long ago, the vacant lot across from Rich Nye’s home was a barren and overlooked patch of dirt and rocks alongside a downtown Grand Junction street.

But back in February, Nye had a vision for the lot, and that idea has taken root. By the summer’s end, Nye, a Vietnam veteran who has been done a good turn by Catholic Outreach of the Grand Valley, will donate back most of the garden’s bounty to the charity.

“This is a good way to give back,” he said, surveying the massive garden plot at White Avenue and Second Street.

From the look of the 30-by-80-foot plot and the amount of seeds and plants planted, the harvest should be significant. Nye hopes to reap 1,500 to 1,700 pounds of vegetables and herbs for the Catholic Outreach soup kitchen, which   helped him when he first came to the area.

Already, about 80 tomato plants stand a foot high. Zucchini plants, pepper plants, lettuce and spinach are poking up. Cantaloupe, cucumbers, watermelon, beans and squash are to come.

Nye moved to Grand Junction from New Orleans after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina so he could be nearer to his sister, who lives here. Nye found work at nearby City Market and lives at St. Benedict’s Place, a quaint housing complex where residents pay for rent on a sliding scale basis.

When he brought the idea of a garden to Sister Karen Bland, executive director of Catholic Outreach of the Grand Valley, she was adamant about the garden not being fenced in, so that anyone who is hungry could pick from the garden. Nye decided to call the space “No Fences,” as it’s listed on a sign out front.

With the help of White and other residents at St. Benedict’s Place, and other volunteers and sponsors, workers have helped create the garden plot. Large stones on the garden’s edges show the work put into picking out the rocky patch by hand. Donated horse manure has been mixed into the rocky soil and a pile of donated compost waits nearby to be spread on the ground. Some of the seeds and plants going into the garden have been donated, while Nye has purchased other seeds out of pocket.

People who live at St. Benedict’s Place have mental or physical disabilities, although they volunteer their time in the garden as they can, Nye said.

Nye had surgery on his left hand to keep it from crippling. He’s slated for the same procedure on his other hand next week.

That’s not likely to keep him out of the garden where he comes after work and spends all weekend.

“Come back and visit in two or three weeks,” Nye said. “It’s going to be green. Real green.”


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