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Few apply for boulevard gardens in Fargo, but those who do hope to see program grow

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Casey Steele stands Tuesday, June 16, with her boulevard garden in front of her north Fargo home. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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FARGO — Casey Steele hopes the boulevard gardening pilot program in Fargo keeps going in coming years as she would like to add vegetables to the pollinators she planted this summer.

At her north Fargo home on Eighth Street, she said her backyard is filled with so many big trees that she can't grow anything there in the shade, adding that her tomato plants have been a disaster.

She joins only about a handful of Fargo residents who have applied for the free permits for boulevard gardens this summer under the coronavirus pandemic emergency program promoted by Fargo Cass Public Health nutritionist Kim Lipetzky and the Cass Clay Food Partners group.

Lipetzky said several more people have expressed an interest in the program, but for a variety of reasons, it didn't work out for them.

The goal is to give residents an option to grow vegetables or pollinator flowers to help with the food supply on the city-owned boulevards during this trying time.

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Steele has a large boulevard, estimated at more than 15 feet, providing plenty of room for a garden.

She started small this year by planting some native North Dakota pollinator plants, including coneflowers, firewitch and blazing stars, that were recommended by North Dakota State University.

Next year, she would like to add vegetables as she said she has only been able to grow ferns and hostas in her backyard because of all that shade.

She said neighbors have stopped by to tell her they enjoyed her plantings on the boulevard.

"It's been a conversation starter with them," Steele said.

"I hope there's enough interest to keep it going multiple years," she said. "I heard a number of people don't want to till up a place on their boulevard if it's only going to be for a year."

Steele has also heard that some people in the city didn't know they couldn't grow flowers on their boulevards, so they have been doing so for years. Moorhead also allows such plantings on their boulevards.

The pilot program is scheduled to go through the end of September, with the City Commission then deciding later if they would like to renew it after Lipetzky provides reports by Dec. 1 on how the program worked and if there were any complaints.

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Most commissioners supported the program, although Commissioner Dave Piepkorn was vehemently against the effort and thought it was a waste of time.

Lipetzky said those who are interested can still apply. Some people have questioned the quality of the soil on their boulevards, but she said that can be mitigated easily with compost and that NDSU can offer soil tests. Insurance has been another top concern. A homeowner should make sure their policy covers the boulevard.

"Our goal is to get something other than grass on the boulevards," Lipetzky said. "It can be good for the environment and for the neighbors, too."

The reason for the permit is to make sure people acquire the necessary insurance and to look over regulations.

Plants must be less than 24 inches tall so they aren't blocking any views of oncoming traffic and pedestrians by driveways and intersections.

Applications are handled online at https://fargond.gov/city-government/departments/fargo-cass-public-health/nutrition-fitness/let-s-eat-local and administered by Fargo Cass Public Health.

Residents must call ND One Call or 811 for utility line locations at least 48 hours before digging.

An almost 50-year veteran of the newspaper business, Amundson has worked for The Forum and Forum News Service for 15 years. He started as a sport reporter in Minnesota. He is currently the city and night reporter for The Forum. bamundson@forumcomm.com 701-451-5665
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