Aspen’s secret garden |

Aspen’s secret garden

Mark Fox/The Aspen Times

Just off Highway 82 sits a small bastion of organic produce, a little-known spot on Marolt Open Space where a lucky few to have a plot.

The community garden provides space for Aspenites to plant their own crops. For $40 a year, locals test their green thumbs with everything from cauliflower and broccoli to all types of lettuce, carrots and radishes. But Aspen’s fickle weather and late growing season can make it a challenge to grow some things successfully on the plots, which range from 10 feet by 30 feet to 10-by-40. “It’s definitely more of a hobby up here,” said Brad Yule, who is tending his garden for the third year. “Some years are better up here.”But the temptation to experiment is tough to resist when there’s even a possibility you can eat what you’ve labored for. Susan Brady’s garden – though she says it’s still a work in progress, as she just got started on her plot – has onions, potatoes and even strawberries. Yule even grows a patch of corn every year.

The garden has picked up over the last few years, as it now has 19 people on the waiting list. But before, it was tough to give the plots away.”It did go through a period of what I would call disuse,” said Margie Sturgis, who is on the board that now manages the garden. The operation started in 1978 as an organic garden, and now there are specific recommendations to keep it natural.Among other things, gardeners are encouraged to use organic seeds, fertilizer and natural sprays to keep pests away.Organic produce can be tough to come by in the Roaring Fork Valley, especially Aspen, where there aren’t many organic growers. What isn’t grown here has to be trucked in – no simple task in the winter.

“It’s pretty limited, and it’s expensive in the valley,” said Mona Esposito, who has gardened at Marolt for several years. “You sort of have to know the right people.”And, of course, the garden often is a spot for kids to learn a little bit more about the food they eat.”There’s a bunch of kids out here,” Yule said. “It’s a great place for kids to get dirty and dig in the dirt. They see where the food could come from at a tender young age.”Greg Schreier’s e-mail address is

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