Having one's own garden can make a space feel like home.
At least, this is the idea that drove the developer of a Northern Utah apartment and town home community to offer vegetable garden plots to its residents.
"Apartments are almost considered as temporary boxes," said James Johnson, property manager of the Four Seasons Apartment Resort in North Logan. "We really wanted to bring more of a home environment to our residents. Thus, the garden idea came to life."
In a complex that also offers a playground, hot tub, pool, gym and massages, Johnson calls the garden one of the community's best features. The garden has 18 plots and an area of fruit trees. This summer residents claim 16 plots: eight are roughly 4x30 feet, another eight are about half that size. The remaining two plots (larger than the others) are tended by the property staff. These plots are open to anyone who wants to putter in the garden. This extends to harvesting, too. Residents can have their fill of the community garden's tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers and more. Johnson and company bring surplus produce into the office to share with anyone who visits.
Plots 1 and 2, shown here on the right, are the community garden tended by staff and anyone else who wants to get their fingers dirty. Residents can harvest all they want.
Residents pay $35 to use the 4x30 plots for the summer. The complex provides hoses and faucets, and gives gardeners the code to access shovels and other tools in a locked shed. The garden has a large compost area. All residents, even those who don't rent a garden plot, are encouraged to bring their produce scraps to the compost area; in fact, each unit's kitchen is equipped with a special compost bucket for this purpose. The property staff regularly rotates the compost.
Top: Fruit trees, smaller lots and part of the compost area. Right: Other side of compost, near larger plots and town homes.
Resident Katie is the gardener of plot 6, where she rasies corn, zucchini and cucumbers ambling up the metal grid. Above is her garden at the beginning of July, below is 2 1/2 weeks later. Katie is thrilled to have this amenity at her apartment complex, and loves to keep her friends and family updated on her latest harvests. Although she grew up with parents who planted a garden, this time gardening is extra enjoyable -- because she considers the space her own. It's a great place to unwind after her shifts as a nurse, she says.
That's precisely what Johnson wanted. An unexpected benefit of the garden is that maintenance workers also have a chance to reset during their other tasks of the day. "It's a stress relief for them, too," Johnson said, noting that if a staff member needs a breather he might say, "'I'm going to work in the garden for half an hour.'"
This is the second year of the garden, and residents are on a waiting list to get in on next year's plots. Johnson said the success of the garden at Four Seasons is shaping the developer's plans to do similar projects in Salt Lake City.
The Four Seasons complex was built with sustainability in mind, Johnson said. The developer negotiated for water rights when buying the property; landscape irrigation is thus provided through recycled groundwater captured in drains. Johnson said Four Seasons accounts for 8 percent of North Logan's population, but that the complex uses only 1 percent of the city's culinary water.
Editor's note: Katie is my relative. I was charmed to hear that her apartment complex provided garden space and knew I needed to visit and see it myself. Sure I've seen community gardens before, but this was the first one I've ever heard of on-site for apartment dwellers. I hope the idea takes off! Tell me, do you have gardens like this in your town?