Community garden blossoms in trailer court, inspires residents to improve surroundings
MANTI—After some space was freed up in Manti’s Duncan Trailer Court, a community garden has blossomed in the extra room, and some of the residents are making efforts to improve the court even further.
“For a long time the trailer court has been in disarray,“ said Crystal Riley, Duncan resident and wife of Wayne Riley, “and we as a community are trying to change that. We don’t have a whole lot but we are doing what we can.”
For years, a trailer sat just a few yards in front of the Rileys, giving them a narrow patch of grass for a front yard and not much in the way of sun.
“We had some flowers growing and a very small garden,” Wayne said, “but the trailer blocked so much of the sunlight it made it really hard.”
When the trailer blocking their sun was condemned and later removed, the Rileys explained, an attempt to replace it was stopped in its tracks by recent zoning laws limiting the density of units in trailer parks.
“The city told them that they could not move in a new one, now that the old one was gone, because of new zoning laws,” Crystal said. “It (the site) sat like that all last winter, empty.”
The Rileys had already caught the gardening bug, partially with the help of Snow College horticulturalist Jason Gibbens.
Over the summers, as part of his work with Snow College’s Horticulture Department, Jason takes plant starts and disperses them to gardens all over the area and does growth and soil studies on them as they progress.
“He started us with indoor plants during the winter to help us decide what we wanted to put in our garden when planting season came,” Crystal said. “Thanks to being part of the project, it’s really helped our garden produce for us.”
With the condemned trailer gone, they had a good-size patch of earth, which formerly had been growing weeds and tall grass. And the patch was getting total sunlight.
Crystal said, “The weeds in that front lot were getting overgrown so instead of mowing them, we borrowed a rototiller and decided to make it a vegetable garden. We wanted it to be a community garden where anyone who helped got a share of the food.”
The couple says Gibbens, who is eager to encourage the proliferation of community gardens in the area, was instrumental in helping the community garden get up-and-running. He donated plant starts and seeds.
“Jason brought squash, cucumber, zucchini, leeks, chives, basil, sunflowers, corn seed and more,“ Wayne said, “but above all, knowledge and time and effort.”
“Community gardens are wonderful places where people come together to learn how to grow and maintain plants, collect, preserve and prepare foods,” Gibbens said. “Also, gardening is a way to stay active while growing healthy, fresh foods for less money.”
Gibbens continued, “Locally produced foods reduce food losses and shipping expenses. This results in fresher, premium foods while increasing local economies and reducing food waste. This translates into a much better value for the money.”
Wayne said, “Not only does it look beautiful, but at the same time we have been able to share fresh food with our neighbors, which makes them happy and (makes them) want to come help be involved too. “
The garden had a further reaching positive effect on the court, the Riley’s told the Messenger. The residents started thinking about other ways to beautify.
Crystal started a FaceBook group call “Beautify Duncan Court” where residents began to document, through posts and photos, the progress they were making on the project.
The work wasn’t always easy, they say.
“We did a lot of trimming trees around the court,” Wayne said, “helping clean up places where the people who lived there couldn’t, building a new fence and deck. We even had to haul off rocks and other old debris.”
The Rileys say that although a number of court residents got involved and pitched in, sometimes it was the little hands that made a big difference.
“The kids have been a big help,” Crystal said. “Any time we have needed extra hands to do cleanup or other work, the children in the trailer court have been a huge help.”
The Rileys’ two boys, Andrew and Hunter, even rebuilt the sign for the trailer court, since the old one was falling apart.
Wayne told the Messenger that residents put in about 10 hours of work per week tending the garden, depending on how pervasive the weeds become.
“It’s all so worth the work though, “Wayne said. “We love the fresh vegetables that come from the garden. I am really happy that the corn is producing, but I’m happiest with how well the zucchini took off. It grew like crazy.”
Crystal said, “My favorite part is all the flowers, in general. I love the food. Don’t get me wrong, the food is amazing, but even the food plants produce flowers. Ultimately, it’s flowers that bring the bees to pollinate, and without that we wouldn’t have any of it.”
Although autumn is approaching, the Rileys say they, and other members of the court are already thinking about what’s next.
“We are hoping to open another plot of the community garden next year. One of the other members of the court has decided to add one to their property next year also, so we see the next phase as helping everyone who wants a garden in their yard get one,” she said.
“We also want to rebuild any decks that need it and paint trailers,” Wayne said. “Whoever needs a new deck or new paint, we are going to try and make it happen.”
“The biggest challenge is really not having the resources to do what needs to be done,” Wayne said. “We can always use more cooperation and are grateful for any donations or help we get with the garden or court.”
If you want to help, contact Crystal or Wayne Riley at 835-4543.
Gibbens says more community garden efforts could have serious benefits and encourages them whenever practical.
“The future of soil and plant sustainability can be observed, discussed, practiced and improved” to ensure a healthy earth with healthy people,” Gibbens said.