Children pushed wheelbarrows back and forth while parents shoveled soil and compost Sunday at the Council Groves Apartments.

About 30 residents of the Missoula apartment complex spent the afternoon installing a set of raised planter boxes in an effort to build a community garden.

“It’s all about giving a chance for neighbors to meet neighbors and work together,” said Meg Matthaes, a Council Groves resident.

Matthaes also is a member of the Resident Council at the apartments, which listens to the issues and wishes of the residents and meets regularly with the board that oversees the low-income, 72-unit apartment complex.

“We also organize monthly community events to bring the residents together for fun activities,” she said.

The apartments had another community garden that was made a few years ago, but recent renovations and expansions of the central community building overtook that area, and a playground was added last fall. Shortly after that, some of the people living in the apartments started making plans for the best way to bring gardening spaces back.

Instead of each resident having their own plot, Matthaes said the raised beds will be planted, tended to and harvested as part of a group effort between all of the residents. The boxes are located in the community space near the back of the buildings.

“Some of the residents have already been raising start plants, mainly vegetables and herbs to plant here,” Matthaes said.

In addition to the four raised beds near the community center at Council Groves, the residents also put in another, slightly taller planter box up against the concrete sidewalk near one of the buildings, to be more easily accessible to the community's older or disabled residents.

Matthaes said in addition to materials that were bought for the project, the residents received donations from Eko Compost, Home Depot and Ace Hardware. Representatives from Garden City Harvest also collaborated with Council Groves on the best design and placement of the planter boxes.

One of the boxes will be reserved for kids, many of whom attend Hawthorne Elementary School, which resident Gisele Forrest said has a similar student garden space.

“They’re going to learn how to start seedlings, and later in the summer, we’re going to be doing a program based on getting from vegetables into their diet and eating healthy,” said Forrest, also a member of the Resident Council.

While the new planter boxes have about the same amount of space as the old garden, Matthaes said the residents are open to the idea of adding more in future years if the community garden project proves popular enough.

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