Becky Mann in front of the under-construction raised beds. [Alison Harford/Moab Sun News]

The empty lot next to WabiSabi—partially hidden in the corner behind both the thrift store and parking lot—looks different every day as progress is made in building the newest plot for Moab Community Gardens. The plot will be ready to go for next year’s garden season with a number of 4-by-16-foot raised beds with 2-foot high walls. 

“This is one more opportunity to build community in Moab,” said MoCom Gardens Manager Becky Mann. “The community garden spaces stand out in that there’s a lot of mixing in experience levels and age groups, and it’s an opportunity for people to talk to people they may not normally talk to.” 

Amanda Foust, a biological science technician with the National Park Service, will be the garden’s steward, the main point of contact for gardeners. Foust has gardened in a MoCom plot for two years, she said. 

“I got involved because I was new to town,” Foust said. “I liked community gardening both for the aspect of being able to grow my own food but also the community aspect: having a way to meet new people and tap into the knowledge of more experienced gardeners … It’s very fulfilling to be able to garden in Moab.”

Amanda Foust building raised beds during a work party. [Courtesy photo]

Last year, MoCom offered garden space in two locations: off East Bench road in Spanish Valley and at Our Village Community Center off 500 W. Plots come with nutrient-rich soil and irrigation.

The plots are meant to be affordable, so there’s a variety of price options: gardeners can pay a higher fee with a lower volunteer commitment, or a lower fee with a higher volunteer commitment. The plot at WabiSabi will be priced similarly. 

Community garden spaces also offer the opportunity for people who may only be in Moab seasonally or who don’t have garden space at home to still grow their own food, Mann said. 

“Growing food is important for food security and healthiness, but also just for peace of mind: I’ve had people say gardening is one of their favorite things,” Mann said. “It really helps to have a little piece of and connection with the earth.” 

Work on the new plot started a few years ago when the prior WabiSabi director, Liz Dana Han, had the idea to transform the empty space next to WabiSabi into a community area. Plans have been in motion since then, and most recently, the Resiliency Hub, which helps run MoCom Gardens, was awarded a grant from the Grand Conservation District to fund the new garden space. 

Now, the space is being built by volunteers. Mann decided to do raised beds because she wasn’t sure what was in the ground—she didn’t want to run into any chunks of concrete, she said, and constructing raised beds allows her to create nutrient-rich soil. She and a group of volunteers held a work party a few weeks ago to construct the raised beds and get compost piles, mostly consisting of horse manure, started. Once the beds are constructed, the lumber will be rubbed with raw linseed oil to protect it from water and soil, lined with cardboard, and filled with soil. Then, construction efforts will turn to irrigation and painting signs. 

“I think all the raised beds we’re going to be able to build this year will probably be filled next year, and as word gets out and people see them, there’ll probably be more demand,” Mann said. “I think people will really like the accessibility of being downtown.” 

Community garden space is very popular, Mann said—last year, not everyone was assigned the garden space they wanted because there simply wasn’t enough room. For the WabiSabi garden, Mann hopes to eventually work with WabiSabi to create even more garden space and add some artistic flair, like sculptures. 

“I think the new garden will allow people easier access, and I think it’ll increase the usage, as well as just the knowledge that community gardens exist here,” Foust said. “I have friends and colleagues who didn’t know we had community gardens, and I think there’s definitely an interest in getting plots and being a part of it.” 

Anyone who wants to volunteer to help build the new garden can contact Becky Mann at Garden sign-ups will open in February 2023.