Community Garden In Sun City Gives New Life To Damaged Grave Liners

By Carrie Jung
Published: Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 7:21am
Updated: Thursday, November 10, 2016 - 2:09pm
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(Photo by Carrie Jung - KJZZ)
Teresa Yandel is growing tomatoes in her above ground container garden.
(Photo by Carrie Jung - KJZZ)
It's the end of the season for artichokes here in the valley.
(photo by Carrie Jung - KJZZ)
Larry Bilderback checks on some of the gourds growing in garden.
(photo by Carrie Jung - KJZZ)
From left to right: Larry Bilderback, Bob Bastion, Teresa Yandel, Yvonne Buckley and Norm Walker

It’s easy to miss the Sun City community garden when driving by on Greenway Road thanks to a seven foot tall brick wall. But once you make it, you can usually find Norm Walker at the entrance, ready to take you beyond the gates with his golf cart.

This well site, run by Epcor, is typically a plot of dusty land surrounding a large water storage tank. But this one is decidedly greener than most. The water company is allowing the Sun City Garden Club to make more productive use of this acre and a half with a community garden. 

"So gourds all along the fence row," said garden club member Larry Bilderback. "This is all cucumber. Late summer cucumber."

Bilderback is one of the club’s 140 members.

The land has been parsed into several dozen plots that are rented out to members to cover the cost of irrigation. Some are ground level, but many of them are contained in above ground planters, which is where the whole creative reuse theme comes back into play.

These concrete planters aren’t your typical above ground containers.

"[It's] what they put the caskets in when it gets lowered into the ground." explained Yvonne Buckley.

In other words, a grave liner. You know, those three-by-seven foot concrete structures that help stabilize the ground over a casket after its buried.

"They’re a wonderful thing for sun city where you need wheelchairs and access to that height," Buckley said.

She added, she understands the idea of using something so morbid in this garden sounds a bit weird when you stop and think about it, but the concrete grave liners are actually the perfect height for residents with mobility issues. They’re also large enough to hold a couple sweet potato plants, a shoot of corn and a few cucumbers.

"It was just a nice convenient size for seniors," Buckley said.

She explained the deal was a win win for the garden club and Handley Precast Systems, a valley concrete manufacturer that makes the garden club's "above ground planters."

The two have worked together before.

The club members used to trade bushels of veggies in exchange for concrete products they needed. And then Steve Handley, the company president, had an idea - a second life of sorts for his concrete grave liners that cracked in the manufacturing process.

"I just thought that they could use it for something else than what it was intended for," Handley said. 

He added the deal allows his company to make good use of and, at least, some money from merchandise that is typically unsellable.  

"I’m just glad we’re able to do something for them," he said. 

Back in Sun City, Yvonne Buckley and her gang check in on their pumpkin crop in the club’s volunteer vegetable garden.

The produce in this 60 x 60 mega plot is set for donation, mostly to senior centers and local food banks. The garden produced more than 1,200 pounds of vegetables in the summer season alone.

"If we can get quality food and grandma here in an upright garden and get her to grow local foods close to home then that would be a nice piece to hand off to the community," Buckley said.  

Because, for these gardeners, it’s all about giving back.

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