It’s still the middle of winter, but now is the ideal time to start planning your garden.
And if you don’t have the space in your own backyard (or don’t have a yard at all), the downtown Salt Lake City Public Library has four open community garden plots that will be assigned through a raffle that closes on Feb. 1.
Rikki Longino, the library’s garden coordinator, said there are 18 total 8-by-4 plots in the community garden, but only four are currently open. Longino said the garden was closed last year because of the pandemic, and people who had been granted plots last year were rolled over to this year.
While the garden was closed, library employees grew crops in the plots to donate to the Women’s Resource Center.
Longino, who uses they/them pronouns, said this year’s new gardeners will be selected in February after the lottery closes. Members of the public won’t be able to wander through the gardens this year because of the pandemic, but people who are assigned plots will be able to work at their gardens as long as they social distance and wear masks.
People over 18 years old who live between North Temple and 900 South and between 600 West and 700 East are eligible for a free plot and can enter the library’s online raffle at SLCPL.org.
In addition to lending out books, the library also runs a “seed library” that is free for everyone, not just people with a community garden plot. Longino said the library encourages people to donate their seeds back to the library at the end of the growing season. Those seeds are then distributed for free to other gardeners. In the past, people could come check out the seeds in person. This year, people will be able to browse the seed collection online and place an order with the library.
“It’s all free and you don’t even need a library card,” they said.
Longino said the garden, which opened in 2016, fits well at the library because it is also a community center where people can hang out and use computers. The library is also using the garden to educate the public about how food is grown. The library has made videos about topics like planting garlic and growing herbs for tea and broth that are on the library’s Instagram (@slcpl) and Facebook.
Winners of the raffle will be notified on or before Feb. 16, according to the library’s website, and will be required to attend an orientation session in March.
Don’t panic if your bid for a library plot doesn’t pan out. Salt Lake City residents can also apply for community garden plots in multiple locations around the city through Wasatch Community Gardens. Fees for plots at Wasatch’s gardens range from $25 to $37.
Wasatch Associate Director Andrea Melliadis said the application is open all year on a first-come, first-serve basis. She said Wasatch Community Gardens tries to place everybody, but it depends on which garden a person applies to since different gardens generate different levels of interest.
“We love to have people apply,” she said. “We really make a huge effort to place everybody who is waitlisted.”
She said that in addition to allowing people to grow healthy foods, community gardens are a great way to build community and bring together people from different backgrounds.