Plant problems spoiling Delta community garden

The city of Delta’s new community garden is on rocky ground until results of soil samples help officials determine why growers saw damage to their plants.

Thomas Swan, a local resident participating in the first-year project, began to suspect some type of contamination when his cantaloupe plant flourished at home but died in the community plot. He was among those who raised concerns that something in the soil or a nearby chemical spray application could be the culprit.

“If they had told us up front (that the soil had been sprayed previously), we would not have gotten involved in the project at all,” said Swan, who accepted a refund and abandoned his produce. He was disheartened by having dedicated time and labor without enjoying the payoff.

Paul Suppes, parks director for Delta, said the land had been sprayed with Roundup in previous years to control weeds on the property. That fact was brought up in an early meeting about the potential for a garden and, at the time, a grower backed out, he said.

If something damaging to plants does exist in the soil, the garden will be disbanded, Suppes wrote in a letter notifying those involved and offering refunds. Of the 12 spaces rented, two growers never planted, three took the refund of their $25 and the others continue to care for and harvest produce, Suppes said.

Colorado State University Extension Agent Curtis Swift looked at the garden and said the initial symptoms he saw appeared to be consistent with a possible 2,4-D product drift from a neighbor. 2,4-D is an herbicide used to control broadleaf weeds.

Suppes, who was raised on a farm, said chemical applications are quite common in a farming community, adding that the location of the garden off Seventh Street is next to farm ground.

Officials with the Colorado Department of Agriculture took samples and expect to have results in the next six weeks. Those results likely will determine the future of the community garden project, Suppes said.

“I’m really concerned right now,” he said. “We invested a lot of time and money to get it fenced and watered.”

Swan and his wife first attended a meeting in March about the possibility of the community garden. They have raised gardens at home, but the idea of a community garden and the possibility of increasing their homegrown produce was attractive to them.

“The city did a nice job with the fencing and irrigation and getting it prepared,” Swan said. “I was looking forward to all the crops we were going to get.”

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