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Take a look at Las Cruces’ community gardens


Grace Foster has been selling her produce at the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market for four years, setting up her table with Jerusalem artichokes, jujubes and other greens. She is a popular fixture at the market, offering unique products customers cannot always find at other produce stands.

Foster has over 80 jujube trees at her home, but the soil in her yard isn’t conducive to growing some of the other vegetables she is interested in. As a solution, she rents community garden plots from the city.

Radishes, carrots and other vegetables grow in a plot at the Tony Gomez Community Garden in Las Cruces on April 20.
Radishes, carrots and other vegetables grow in a plot at the Tony Gomez Community Garden in Las Cruces on April 20.
Las Cruces’ parks and recreation department manages four community gardens and has a waitlist for available plots. The gardens include the Sage, Las Esperanzas and Tony Gomez gardens. Russ Boor Community Garden at Munson Senior Center is also overseen by the city, but is largely cultivated by volunteers and provides fresh food to the senior center’s kitchen.

Community gardens first popped up in town around 2007, according to Franco Granillo, deputy director of the parks department. Las Esperanzas was the first, located on Picacho.

“There was interest between community gardeners, novice gardeners and people who just wanted to do something different in the community,” Granillo said.

Community members who live in apartments, who do not have a backyard or who do not want to plant in their own yard are among those who rent plots. He added that a similar mix of experienced gardeners and beginners, including children and parents, rent a plot from the department each year.

He said some people grow for fun and others to sell what they harvest, like Foster.

Orlando Flores, community forester for the city, oversees the garden program. He explained that there are 52 plots between the three gardens, which are typically at 100 percent occupancy. The waiting list has expanded in recent years, and Flores said that could lead to establishing more garden space in the future: “That may come down the road, we don't know yet.”

Foster grows Jerusalem artichokes in her plots at the Tony Gomez Community Garden. The root vegetable is similar in appearance to ginger and has many nutritional benefits. Foster explained that the plant does better in the garden’s more “sandy” soil rather than the clay soil at her home.

And after a few years of trial and error, she has her system of growing the vegetables down pat. Though she added that the plants have a mind of their own.

“You just harvest them right? Next year, they come back by themselves. I don't know where they come from, so (I) lost control,” Foster laughed.

Flores said there are a few limitations on what gardeners can grow – nothing illicit and no perennials. He also said the department tries to maintain organic care in the garden, with the use of chemicals in some situations as a last resort.

As for the benefits of community gardens, they are numerous. Flores said aside from the benefits derived from what is actually grown in the gardens, people benefit from the community they find among fellow gardeners. Gardening is also a form of physical activity and gets people to spend some time outside, “getting their hands dirty” and playing “with Mother Nature a little bit,” which can benefit mental health.

Granillo added that Sage Community Garden on the east mesa will be relocating in the next year. The garden sits next to Sage Cafe senior center, which is in the process of expanding. He said a location is still being determined for the garden, but it will remain close to the senior center.

Applications for a garden plot open around February each year. Applicants must be residents of Las Cruces and pay a $25 rental fee. After that, the plot is theirs, and can be decorated or customized to what the gardener is growing.

The city’s parks and recreation department can be reached by phone at 575-541-2000.


Leah Romero is a freelance writer based in southern New Mexico. She can be reached at LeahRRomero.com.

community gardens, waiting list