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Community dirt good for growth

Soil for the taking at Blatchley Community Garden. (KCAW photo/Greta Mart)

Soil for the taking at Blatchley Community Garden. (KCAW photo/Greta Mart)

Sitkans hoping to cultivate a home garden often face one major obstacle: where to find enough dirt — especially dirt with the right kind of nutrients for growing healthy crops. Now there’s a solution: a community dirt pile, free for the taking.

Baranof Island has plenty of dirt, says Blatchley Community Garden manager Dave Nuetzel. It’s just that most of that dirt is muskeg…. highly acidic and not conducive to growing cultivated veggies.

“We often get the question, where can I get dirt. I want to start a garden, where can I get dirt?” said Michelle Putz, a board member of the Sitka Local Foods Network.

This summer the non-profit group launched a pilot project to help supply Sitka’s would-be gardeners with raw soil by partnering with the city, school district and the Blatchley Community Garden to create a community dirt pile.

[sound of dumptruck backing up, raising and dumping bed full of soil]

That’s the sound of a dumptruck unloading a bed-full of soil excavated from the new Benchlands housing development. New building projects will be a key source for the community dirt pile. It’s located on the northeast end of the Blatchley Community Garden, behind Blatchley Middle School and easily reached from Olga Drive.

The soil is natural and organic — it’s fresh from a previously undeveloped hillside. But it does need amendments to make it truly fertile soil.

“It will be really, raw dirt, it’s not ready to go right into a garden…this is the stuff you need to add some sand to, some compost…it’s a starting point,” said Putz.

Dave Nuetzel said Tuesday that adding grass clippings. food scraps and sand to the dirt provided at the Blatchley community pile is a great way to turn it into loamy gold, perfect for helping more Sitkans become true locavores.

And there are some rules for the dirt pile – for instance it’s only to be used for individuals or families, no commercial use.

Putz and the Sitka Local Foods Network said if the pilot project goes well, the public soil pile will be stocked on a permanent basis — so Sitka’s gardeners can get digging.

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