It started with one little comment.
“An elderly lady asked me last year if we could ever do a garden she could use,” said Glen McCombs, owner of Plant Fair Nursery in Star Valley and volunteer garden advisor at the Payson Community Garden (PCG).
McCombs said the elderly lady could not bend down to reach the garden plots the PCG had laid out due to health issues.
Most of the plots at the Payson Community Garden have raised beds that sit up off the ground, the width of two-by-fours stacked on top of each other or the height of a mound of soil.
These low-to-the-ground beds require gardeners to either kneel or stoop over to tend to plants.
Enter the students from Richard Alvarez’s construction arts and Career and Technology Preparation (CTP) classes.
Alvarez and his students have a long history of volunteering their wood crafting skills to help organizations in the Rim Country — such as the Zane Grey Cabin museum.
Not many know, but the construction arts class built most of the furniture for the rebuilt cabin off of photographs. The students also helped build the Little Red Schoolhouse in Tonto Basin.
The PCG project started in the new CTP classes held at Payson High School once a week. Administration has created these classes to help students find scholarships, fill out college applications, create a resume or find a technical school.
Sophomore Chevelle Bartlett spends each Tuesday afternoon with Alvarez, who is her CTP advisor. She does not take the construction class.
When Alvarez told Bartlett and the other CTP students that as part of the class they had to come up with a community service project, Bartlett and her group decided to do something for the Payson Community Garden.
“We read some articles on families in need,” said Bartlett. “That helped us to decide what to do.”
The students chose to help feed Rim Country families.
Alvarez took up the cause by calling McCombs to ask what the class could do. McCombs told Alvarez of the request from the elderly lady.
Alvarez said solving that problem was right up his students’ alley.
To find out what a disabled gardener would need, McCombs consulted with one of the PCG volunteers whose wife is confined to a wheelchair. She said the garden beds needed to be 30 inches high and allow the disabled gardener to reach over and tend plants.
Alvarez designed a box with four 30-inch-high walls that created a perfect square. The wooden box will enable gardeners in a wheelchair, or those with back or arthritis problems, to garden without having to bend over or kneel.
The construction arts students embraced the project.
Cierra Rose and Sage Pearce helped to paint the outside of the boxes, decorating them with festive flowers.
“Sage drew them on the side, I just helped to paint,” said Rose.
Rose and Pearce said that Alvarez had thoughtfully designed handrails on the side of the boxes to make it comfortable for wheelchair-bound people to lean over and work in their gardens.
“We sort of leveled things out and sanded the rails,” said Pearce, “We didn’t want it to be tough on people in wheelchairs.”
On a sunny day, the students hauled over four boxes to present to the PCG board.
Roger Kriemeyer, director of Payson Community Garden, and his wife Linda, Glen and Linda McCombs, owners of Plant Fair Nursery and technical garden advisors, Dave Ranck, operations manager, Paul Hicken, hydroponics advisor, and Anita Barker, master gardener, were on hand to accept the gift from the students.
“We can probably put four of these on a plot,” said Kriemeyer.
At the time of the dedication, only one of the raised beds had been requested. The PCG group hopes more physically challenged gardeners step forward to try their hand at the box gardens.
McCombs estimated a gardener could get more than 100 pounds of vegetables from one of the garden boxes.
The Payson Community Garden will hold an open house and gardening class on March 9. McCombs said he would hold a soils preparation class on March 2.
Garden plots cost $60 plus the cost of drip irrigation supplies. The PCG advisors will happily advise on installing a drip system.
The public is invited to attend classes.
Get applications for plots from the Church of the Nazarene or at Plant Fair Nursery.
For more information on the Payson Community Garden and classes, call Roger Kriemeyer at (928) 468-1365.