Tiny gardens will spring up in downtown Moscow starting next year, and members of the public will be able to access the locally grown foods for free.

Moscow’s Little Free Gardens is an AmeriCorps service project and sponsored by the Moscow Farmers Market.

The Little Free Garden project started in Fargo, N.D., and grew nationally, with the closest one in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. Its mission is to “help connect people with their communities through growing and sharing fresh, local food.”

“What we really wanted to do with this particular service year is develop a project that gives our AmeriCorps members time to engage people in the offseason while also engaging people during the Moscow Farmers Market season,” said Amanda Argona, Moscow community events manager.

Abigail Dow, Moscow urban and edible landscapes educator and an AmeriCorps member, said the planting of edible plants in the gardens will start in the spring — likely in May.

The Moscow Farmers Market is administering polls on its Facebook page to gauge the community’s interest of what they want to see planted in the Little Free Gardens.

The polls are on the page now, and Dow said there will be 13 polls.

She said the edible plants will include fruits, vegetables, herbs and possibly grains. If grown successfully, they will be available for picking during the summer.

She said the gardens will be in the city hall parking lot area and near and along Main Street, but the exact number and locations of the gardens are yet to be determined.

Dow said they will primarily plant the gardens in existing planters downtown, and they envision building planter boxes in underutilized spaces at city hall.

She said community service days will be held starting around March, in which people can build planter boxes and gardening cold frames to prepare the gardens. Volunteer days will also be held during the spring and summer, where residents can help water and maintain the gardens.

Dow said perhaps the biggest reason for the implementation of the gardens is they will allow residents to access healthy foods more easily.

“If the gardens are successful and bountiful, then there will be food that’s grown locally that anyone in the Moscow community will be free to harvest from,” she said.

Dow said connecting people to where their food comes from and helping address the local food insecurity issue are other reasons for the project. The gardens are also expected to serve as community engagement opportunities and environmental education programs for children and families.

She said they plan to allow children to paint signs and rocks to identify the gardens.

Project materials for the Little Free Gardens will be funded by the city and through donations from seed companies and local businesses.

Since Moscow has never implemented a tiny garden, Dow said, it is difficult to say whether people will abuse them by taking loads of produce at once. She said she has not heard of other locations experiencing the issue.

“I would hope that people will be respectful of how much they’re taking and only take what they need, and I don’t foresee that being an issue,” she said.

While the concepts are similar, Little Free Garden is not affiliated with Little Free Library, a nonprofit organization that promotes neighborhood book exchanges, typically in the form of a small, enclosed bookcase in people’s front yards.

Garrett Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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