Sparks police officers reap rewards from station garden.
WRITTEN BY HEIDI BETHEL
PHOTOS BY ASA GILMORE
First row, from left, working back are Marla Wetterling, Detective Jennifer Vaught, and Detective Shawn Congdon.
Next row Debbie Price, Jennifer Radli, and Sgt. Ben Russell. Next row, Denise Yarbrough and Teresa Wiley.
Back row, Detective Jamie Ahdunko, Isis Morales, Sgt. Curtis English, and Cindi Ingram
It’s 2 a.m. on a warm summer night. While most city residents are fast asleep, a group of Sparks police officers sit and reminisce about the day. Instead of recapping around a conference table, they enjoy the serene atmosphere of a garden tended by their peers. Some say it’s their happy place. Some just enjoy fresh vegetables to munch on. Everyone prefers this to a dingy parking lot as they come and go from the station.
Sergeant Ben Russell and others in the department have planted the 50-by-50-foot garden for as long as Russell can remember. Filled with planters containing vegetables, fruits, trees, and shrubs, the community garden has become a team project from which all reap the benefits.
“We have some who spend more time [on the garden] than others, but everybody is able to take advantage of the space when it’s prosperous,” Russell says. “It’s not maintained by the city, and it’s nice to see the pride when everyone helps out. We all stop to take a few minutes to pull a few weeds and make it look nice.”
How does your garden grow?
With its ability to grow myriad crops, including tomatoes, corn, peppers, zucchini, squash, and more, the planter garden’s goodies often are spotted on plates during lunch breaks and stacked on tables ready for the taking.
“It seems like no matter what we do, the tomatoes, strawberries, and zucchini always do spectacular,” Russell says. “Sometimes the fruits and vegetables start getting so big and impressive that we have to urge folks to take them home.
“We had a sergeant who could grow the biggest pumpkins you could ever imagine,” he adds. “We would watch every season to see how big he could get them. They were gigantic, especially in this little garden.”
When it comes to gardening, Russell has one major recommendation: Talk to the experts. With many local nurseries and garden centers available in our area, he suggests working with their staff members to plan the ideal garden for your space.
“There are a lot of knowledgeable folks who will lead you in the right direction,” Russell says.
“Gardening is fun to do,” he continues. “We all enjoy the result, and it’s a great way to escape the stresses of the city.”
Heidi Bethel spent the past several summers tending her own small garden and evading the giant tomato bugs that like to creep around her plants. She appreciates the calm that comes from spending time on the plot, no matter the size.