Parker garden brings community together


If Ed Shaw has his way, he’ll be gardening until he “kicks the bucket.”

Shaw is one of the many characters to put their roots down in the Parker Community Garden, a 42-plot spread at Longs Way and Brownstone Drive. After downsizing eight years ago from acreage property in the Oklahoma panhandle to an apartment in Parker, Shaw discovered the community garden and realized he had an opportunity to again put his green thumb to work.

The 73-year-old oversaw a flourishing 60-by-20-foot garden back in Oklahoma, and because of the climate and soil in Colorado, he is able to grow just as many vegetables in a 20-by-20-foot garden bed. He has a mental laundry list of techniques to help his plants thrive, including methods that separately utilize Clorox, banana peels and plastic wrap.

Even Valerie Holden, the self-described Parker Community Garden guardian, has picked up some pointers from the Oklahoma transplant and his wife, Bonnie, over the six years they have rented a plot.

There is a cast of dedicated gardeners ranging in age from 12 to 82, Holden says. Each year, there is a waiting list to get into the low-cost community garden, and she begins soliciting requests as early as November. Some spend the summer tending to their crops and harvest vegetables like carrots throughout the winter.

Shaw grows tomatoes, different varieties of zucchini, squash, bell peppers, cucumbers and pole beans. Of course, he and Bonnie can’t eat a summer’s yield by themselves, so they give much of it to charitable organizations or friends or even passing seniors who happen to take a rest at a picnic table during a stroll through the neighborhood. The Shaws also schedule frequent gatherings with friends in which everyone brings a side dish that includes fresh-picked produce.

Holden, who has been coming every year since 1988, says the garden can be used as a teaching tool because people often don’t know where the food they consume comes from. Outside of that, it can be a good place for “wild stories” and “fellowship” with neighboring gardeners, Shaw said.

The garden has become such an important place for Shaw that he half-jokingly suggests that when he does pass on, he will request that his ashes be spread on his plot to fertilize the soil.


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