In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
March, 2005
Regional Report

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A paved path invites visitors to explore the garden.

Community Gardens Transform Lives

Community gardens fill a variety of needs. Some simply provide space for apartment dwellers to grow fresh vegetables and flowers. Anyone can rent a plot and be surrounded with the camaraderie and knowledge of plant lovers. (Be forewarned: there are often waiting lists for these plots!) Volunteers at some community gardens grow produce to supply food banks. Urban community gardens often rise up from abandoned lots as a means to revitalize a neighborhood and remove eyesores. George Weyant Neighborhood Garden in the Sunnyslope area of Phoenix is a wonderful example of the latter.

A Neighborhood Garden Grows
The house that used to occupy the lot burned down, and the space eroded into a trash magnet. In 1995, nearby John C. Lincoln Hospital stepped in to purchase the lot and donate it to the Uptown Sunnyslope Block Watch as a garden. It was named after the land's original owner.

Over time, the garden has evolved into a charming spot, full of fruit trees, flowers, and vegetable plots. A brick path leading to a patio area acts as a local gathering spot. Halloween and Easter parties are held for kids, and the beds are decorated for the seasons. Whimsical scarecrows stand guard, and funny animals poke out from behind foliage. At this time of year, the fragrance of sweet peas lingers in the air.

In addition to transforming its location, the garden is transforming lives. Grace Wagner has coordinated activities at the garden for years. She notes that probationers doing court-ordered community service in the garden are unlikely to repeat their offenses. They are encouraged to bring their children with them while they work.

Wagner thinks time spent in the garden is invaluable for children. "So many of them have never seen anything growing in the ground," she comments. "They have no idea where a tomato comes from."

Noting the success that a therapist achieved working with a particular child in the garden, Wagner says they are seeking grant funding to provide horticultural therapy for more at-risk children. The Garden has nonprofit 501 (c) 3 status. Other plans include enclosing a gazebo to do arts and crafts projects during the summer when gardening is not so much fun in the desert heat.

Whatever path this garden follows, its gardeners can be proud of the positive impact it has left on many lives in the neighborhood.


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