Jenny Moore, a Wyoming resident for most of her life, rented a garden plot at the Wyoming Community Gardens this summer and said it created an entirely new experience for her right here in the city she has known for decades.
“I saw the fence, and I said, ‘perfect,’” she says, of her initial attraction to the idea of the community garden site, which is surrounded by a 10-foot vinyl fence to keep out deer. Her own garden at her home on Stearns Avenue was regularly raided by deer that snatched her harvest before she had a chance to.
Although the fence may have been one of the first appeals, she discovered numerous other benefits to becoming one of the roughly four dozen gardeners in the communal growing space.
“It’s fun to have a place to go and get your tomatoes,” she says of the regular evening walks she takes with her husband, Cliff, to harvest the daily crop from her 4-by 8-foot raised garden of tomatoes, corn and squash. “We get our vegetables and then we go home and cook them.”
She says being part of an official group of gardeners working in one shared area has been a new experience and has given her a different perspective on the hobby she’s known for years. It’s also been a way to meet and get know people who she might not have crossed paths with otherwise.
“We’ve had a coach, of sorts, who has helped us learn good growing techniques,” she says of Juliann Gardner, founder of One Small Garden, the creator of the cedar wood raised beds used in the Community Gardens. “I learned how to start plants from seed, and how to grow better plants using more organic methods.”
Gardner says she was so impressed with Wyoming’s concept and design for the Community Gardens that she wanted to be a part of it, and help local gardeners get the most from the space. So, during this first season she has worked a plot herself and offered her expertise from decades in gardening to anyone who wanted it.
“Wyoming is way out in front with this project,” says Gardner of the Community Gardens space. “You’d have to go to a much larger city, like Portland, Oregon, to find something this nice. I think this is the future, and Wyoming is already there.”
The design and location for the new community gardens was the result of hours of research and planning by the Community Garden Task Force, set up in 2016 after the old community gardens location along North Park Avenue was demolished to make way for the Hike/Bike Trail extension from North Park to Oak Park. The group looked at community garden sites around the country to come up with a vision and concept for Wyoming.
The gardens are situated on a roughly half-acre site nestled on the east side of Van Roberts and feature raised beds that offer flexibility and ease of use. The beds are moveable, and can be configured in multiple patterns to accommodate each individual gardener’s needs. There are also several handicapped-accessible beds designed to be used with wheelchairs.
Crushed stone paths surround the garden beds to improve access and to maintain an aesthetically pleasing look. There is a dedicated parking lot, multiple water outlets, plus a secure tool shed and a work bench. In addition, the encircling grounds are landscaped to fit seamlessly with the surrounding neighborhood. The total cost of the project was $137,697, with $115,000 provided from a Community Development Block grant.
“We are very happy to offer this valuable resource to our residents once again,” says Tetley. “The task force did a wonderful job of searching for a new location and executing a vision for our re-launch of the community gardens.”
“It’s a lovely space. I’m so glad we have it, says Moore.”