North End Organic Nursery: Bringing the Garden Back to Garden City

By / Photography By Guy Hand | June 15, 2015
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Watering cans

On a sunny spring afternoon, both Chinden Boulevard and the North End Organic Nursery were undergoing frenzied construction, the smells of fresh asphalt and organic fertilizer mixing into a pungent brew. While vested workers directed cars around a maze of orange cones, NEON owner and store manager Lindsay Schramm directed an army of employees to stock shelves, tend plant starts and shovel giant mounds of garden soil.

North End Organic Nursery relocated from its roost at 2350 W. Hill Rd. to the sprawling former Costume Shop space at 3777 E. Chinden Blvd. in January. In addition to increased visibility—37,000 cars motor down that stretch of road every day—the new location has allowed NEON to, as they like to say, “bring the garden back to Garden City.”

“A lot of the other nurseries in town will have a huge nursery full of plants but a very small garden center; we’re kind of the opposite,” said Schramm, wearing a “Talk Dirt to Me” T-shirt. “We’re trying to provide the tools that people need to be successful at gardening. We’re a very large garden center with a smaller nursery that’s very specialized in native and xeric plants.”

Lindsay Schramm and Elisa Nicole Clark
Elisa Nicole Clark holding flowers

NEON’s garden center features everything from organic pest- and weed-control products to more than 1,000 varieties of open-pollinated, heirloom, organic seeds. Rows of hoes and rakes give way to stone fermenting crocks and locally crafted herbal tinctures. And that’s only half of it.

“When we were searching, I didn’t think this building was something that we would be able to manage because I thought it was just way too big, but then we paired up with J. Michaels Florist, the flower studio, and split the building in half,” said Schramm.

The front part of the space is flooded with natural light and peppered with artful flower arrangements, home décor, handcrafted jewelry and even a glass display case filled with chocolate truffles. As it turns out, a florist makes a fitting partner for a certified organic gardening center.

But the most vibrant part of NEON’s new operation is located in a one-acre plot behind the building. Past a hand-lettered sign that reads “Welcome to our gardens” an array of verdant plants and trees rest under a shaded canopy, while a nearby greenhouse buzzes with activity.

“The plants that we focus on here are native, xeric, drought-tolerant, edible, attract a pollinating insect or do something beneficial for your yard by fixing nitrogen back into the soil,” said horticulturalist Elisa Clark.

Walking past rows of just-blossoming fruit trees—everything from Cornelian cherries to Giant Elberta peaches—Clark explained that NEON is particularly focused on “interesting, unique edibles.”

“We have goji berries, which are a huge antioxidant plant—they do really well here; they’re drought-tolerant,” said Clark. “We now have honeyberries—they’re great for alkaline soil; they’re kind of a blueberry. … We’re also carrying seaberries, which do great in alkaline/clay soils and help to amend the soils. Figs—normally people think you can’t have a fig here, but you can.”

Repotting plants
Lindsay Schramm

NEON also carries an assortment of small potted citrus trees, like the Palestine Sweet Lime, Buddha’s Hand and Pearl Tangelo.

“It’s important to move them outside for the summer, and once it gets cold again just bring them inside and they’ll bloom indoors,” said Schramm.

In addition to helping others create sustainable, edible landscapes at their homes, NEON plans to build raised beds around the perimeter of its back lot in Garden City.

“We’re going to be doing edible landscaping right along this fence on either side,” said Schramm, pointing to the base of a chainlink fence topped with a menacing curl of barbed wire. “We’re going to build raised beds so we can do demonstration gardens and have people come out here and experience and practice being a gardener.”

Along with offering hands-on experience for their students—NEON teaches a rotating lineup of classes ranging from vermiculture to pruning to seed-starting—Schramm hopes the raised beds will also help benefit and beautify the neighborhood.

“It’s Garden City, we need the tall fence, we need the barbed wire just because we have a lot of stuff back here,” said Schramm. “But we’re going to do the best we can to hide it all with edibles—so growing up blackberries or raspberries or kiwi vines; different edibles that can kind of soften the hard edges that Garden City is known for.”

As NEON continues to grow, Schramm plans to open a coffee shop and a deli inside the building that offers organic salads and sandwiches. She also hopes to sell fermented kimchi, sauerkraut and pickles made onsite using local, seasonal ingredients. And, continuing a tradition established at its original location, NEON will set up a small farmers market in the parking lot Tuesdays from 4 to 6:30pm throughout the growing season.

“Our mission is to get people to grow their own food, plain and simple,” said Schramm. “And to be able to do it without chemicals and be able to do it without worrying about GMOs. If we can get a few dozen people every year to grow their own food for the first time, we’re good to go. That’s our mission.”

North End Organic Nursery
3777 E. Chinden Blvd.
Garden City, ID 83714 • 208.389.4769
Monday–Saturday 9am–6pm
Sunday 10am–5pm

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