The sun is beginning to rise and set later but there is still more dark than light, the temperature outside was below zero this morning, but gardening thoughts distract me from my winter activities. These are prompted by the arrival of a multitude of seed catalogs. Perusing the catalogs for new things to plant always makes me long to start digging in the garden.

The Community Garden at the corner of 5th and Pleasant in Challis will expand the number of garden beds available for local gardeners needing a spot to grow vegetables. The Community Garden was organized over 15 years ago when the Challis Community Church was looking for something to do with the empty lot next to the church that was a weed patch. Spearheaded by Jon Winegarner, the lot was cleared of boulders which were used in the retaining walls around the garden. Over the years, beds were dug and various folks have been gardening there since. Most people sign up for a section about 15 feet by 20 feet. The cost of the water is shared between all the gardeners based on the ratio of the bed sizes, usually not more than $30 a section.

The philosophy of the garden is to grow food in a sustainable, organic way without the use of pesticides or insecticides. Every year we spread wood chips donated from SREC on the walkways and dig in donated leaves. Water conservation is an important part of gardening since we pay for the water. The use of drip irrigation and timers helps avoid the spraying of water into the air to evaporate and the absent minded forgetting to turn off the hose.

The first graders at Challis Elementary School are an important part of our garden community. Each spring they learn fundamental botany while growing pumpkin starts in the classroom. In late May they bring their plants to the garden to transplant into beds. Then in the fall, as second graders, they come over to see what has grown in the garden over the summer. The parade of pumpkins down Main Street is an annual occurrence in early October.

The last two summers there has been a garden club to teach the fundamental aspects of raised bed gardening that is encouraged in the CG. Companion planting, drip irrigation, crop rotation, mulching, composting and water conservation were some of the topics covered. The class prepared and planted a section of the CG and met weekly for a discussion of various gardening topics and to work in their shared garden plot. Everyone in the class  shared in the harvest.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, please contact Helen Winegarner at or call 208-879-6592. Let me know if you are interested in an individual garden plot, the Garden Club or lending a hand with maintenance projects around the garden. There’s always fencing to repair, compost to turn, weeds to pull or helping the first graders' plot.

Helen Winegarner


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