If you’ve seen the Fountain Hills Community Garden, it’s no surprise that we think it is one of the most beautiful community gardens we’ve ever seen. How did our Town end up with such a great amenity? Well, it all started with a question from a Girl Scout. She asked Dr. Jyoti Patel what she had done for the community, and that simple question was all the motivation it took for Dr. Patel to move forward with her idea for the garden. She shared her vision with a group of enthusiastic volunteers in March 2016 and the plans started coming together.
The garden’s manager and the lifeblood of the operation is Rita Applegate. She was involved from the very beginning. She envisioned a “showstopper” garden and, under the umbrella of the Fountain Hills Cultural & Civic Association, she as able to bring it to life on 1.8 acres of Town property.
“We created a Board of Directors of talented and passionate people,” Applegate said. “But I want to be clear that this project could not have happened without the cooperation of the Town, local businesses and nonprofit organizations, and hundreds of focused volunteers with a passion for the project.”
The garden was designed to unfold through 4 separate phases, beginning with 67 beds for lease in early 2017. Then another 62 beds were added, along with a greenhouse and pavers for the major walkways. Then a shed, 6 compost bins, and 8 trees followed.
Phase Four really took the garden to a new level with the beautiful addition of a demonstration pavilion. This is a cooking space that has stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, and several shade sails. This is where the garden’s Healing Food Series is held, along with other great garden events. The classes feature local chefs, restaurant owners, and nutritionists to show garden members how to prepare delicious and healthy recipes with ingredients they can grow in their own garden bed.
The garden now has 123 leasable raised beds, 6 ADA beds, 5 food bank beds, and 2 dedicated children’s gardens. A bee enclosure holds 2 regular beehives and 2 Flow hives.
“We communicate regularly to our gardeners that this is THEIR garden. We want them to have pride in this space and to maintain their beds with that in mind.”
Applegate and fellow manager Joy Hubbard both love to mentor gardeners and to inspire other garden leaders across the Valley to share the secrets of her success, giving them a glimpse into how it can be done.
Last year, the Lower Verde Valley Hall of Fame recognized the Fountain Hills Community Garden with the Legacy Award. To become a garden member and gain access to the tips and tricks the garden members share, visit www.iLoveFountainHills.com.