In late spring 2010 I was approached by my friend Allison Rowland to help organize a Saturday charette to design a community garden. Allison lives in the Canyon Rim neighborhood of Salt Lake County. A relatively recent addition to the neighborhood, she initially thought little of vacant lot behind her property. As time passed, she contemplated the space and how it could be put to a better use as a community garden. Discovering that the the site was owned by a local church, she approached the leaders with her garden idea, which was received positively. Within weeks she had organized a small group of nearby residents and others interested in gardening, and the Canyon Rim Community Garden was born.
I was invited to attend one of the first organizational meetings. About ten people showed up, and together we surveyed the site. I think we were all taken aback by the poor condition of the site. Rocky soil interspersed with large heaps of dirt and construction debris was the dominant feature, with a healthy dose of weeds thrown in for good measure. We reconvened to discuss design options, and quickly settled on a radial design that maintains the existing debris hills where they lie, thereby eliminating the backbreaking and expensive work of removal. It was decided to plant the largest hills with blackberries, brambles and pumpkins as part of a communal garden patch.
After receiving permission from the owner to start the garden and obtaining insurance coverage in May 2010, Allison and her crew of volunteers began working in earnest on the 100 foot by 100 foot garden. Clean-up, plot layout, etc. commenced immediately thereafter, with participation by scout troops, neighbors, experienced gardeners and others. Planting started around May 15, with great help in the form of seedling plants donated by Wasatch Community Gardens, a local community-based nonprofit that provides opportunities for individuals to grow their own food in urban gardens.
A fun fact is that the garden was established with virtually no money - almost everything was donated or completed with volunteer labor. Gardeners include people from Bhutan, Burma, Mexico and the surrounding neighborhood. Most paid $25 for a small plot or $40 for a large plot, including water. The Bhutanese and Burmese gardeners are refugees, and the cost for their participation was covered through donations to "adopt refugee gardeners" or through a grant that Salt Lake County Refugee Services, which places refugees in community gardens around the valley. Payments didn't cover the first-year's costs completely, although it is hoped to make up the difference over the next several years.
If you are interested in becoming a member, or would like to learn more about this and other community gardens in the area, please feel free to contact Landmark Design for more information.