The Grant County Conservation District (CD) had three objectives: to include and set up community gardening structures for seniors and others who would benefit most in a designated food desert such as this area of central Washington; to obtain and provide healthy organic soils, like composted manure, to provide a nutrient-rich medium; and to provide the equipment, drip irrigation systems and garden structures so each site could continue to be successful.
The district wanted the project to be about sustainability, gardening activities for seniors, and supplemental food production. Eight retirement and assisted living facilities around the district’s area of service were identified. There was no cost to the facilities, and all approached were eager to participate. They were happy to provide residents with healthy outdoor activities. The district provided the equipment and volunteer manpower to set up the gardens; irrigation systems were installed where possible with drip nozzles for water conservation.
In preparation, several kinds of vegetables and herb seeds were purchased and started indoors, and larger, mature plants were purchased for replanting as needed. Gardening tools were purchased and made available for each of the eight sites. Tools such as garden creepers, watering cans, sprinkler nozzles and hoses were bought for some of the sites. The compost was donated by three livestock facilities.
The local Columbia Basin Walleye Club (non-profit) provided hours of volunteer in-kind labor to help with the construction of raised beds and vertical gardens as part of their community service. Once the structures were in place, other volunteers helped with shoveling, filling up wheelbarrows and distributing the compost into the raised beds. In addition, maintenance staff at some the facilities helped with watering, irrigation system timing and oversight.
In addition to the eight facilities, the district set up a vertical garden with drip irrigation system at an Alzheimer’s facility in Moses Lake, and donated several yards of compost to the Othello Community garden and the Moses Lake Community garden.
Each facility has interested residents who enjoy caring for the gardens and have taken the lead for weeding and watering. Additional volunteer labor is being recruited.
The raised gardens are filled with compost and are made out of materials that will withstand the weather. Compost will be available if any of the sites need refreshing at no cost and will be supplied by the district.
Drip irrigation systems have been installed in the gardens, ensuring that irrigation will function for several seasons. Maintenance staff at the facilities are responsible for irrigation scheduling.
Hand tools and supplies such as hoses, creepers and sprinkler heads have been provided to the facilities, which will last several years if maintained properly.
On weekends, district employees will provide occasional in-kind maintenance and irrigation systems monitoring.