BOISE -- Like many other Boise residents, Linda Whittig has spent many summer evenings tending to her garden. The garden, though, is unlike any other garden in Boise. It's a vertical, community garden in a North End alleyway.
Ten homes line the alley neighbors affectionately call "SNOW," which stands for Slightly North of Washington (Elementary School). Monday evening, five families, adults and kids included, gathered in the alley. Some children played basketball, others scootered, the littlest girl drew with sidewalk chalk, and the adults sipped wine and chatted.
A year ago, Whittig didn't even know her neighbors she'd lived next to for 14 years.
A year ago, the alley was a dirt road lined with trash cans and junk that accumulates after years of living in the same area.
Whittig and her husband set out to plant blackberries in their yard.
"Here in the North End a lot of the yards are really shady. What we noticed is there is a lot of unused space in the alley getting a lot of sun," said Whittig. So, she had an idea. She wanted to turn the alley into a community gathering space, lined with a vertical garden for all her neighbors to enjoy.
She started with the Ada County Highway District to pave the road.
"ACHD has a program where they will pay for materials if the neighbors pay for labor," said Whittig.
Whittig also turned to the North End Neighborhood Association, who awarded her a grant to get the project started.
"It was a $500 grant. We used that to start building but we knew we needed a little more help," she said.
With the entire project budget near $20,000, the majority of funding came from donations.
Farwest Nursery and D&B Supply pitched in. Soon, the paved road was lined with trellises, raised planter beds, rain barrels, and all sorts of trees and plants.
Whittig walked up and down the alley, pointing out each variety.
"These espaliered trees they are nice because they grow flat. In an alley we don't have a lot of width to grow a traditional tree," she explained, "We have 10 varieties of heirloom tomatoes and over there we have an herb garden in the front with blackberries in the back."
The plants won't yield much fruit this year. Whittig and her husband are carefully tending to the plants, which means for this year, the fruit must be picked early on. It's something they learned from a class at Farwest Nursery.
"It's so that the energy of the plant goes into the root and not the fruit. Hopefully for years to come we will have stronger plants that will produce lots and lots and then we can take advantage of that," said Whittig.
The work is split up between neighbors, but there aren't set rules of what each one has to do.
"We each kind of work on our own areas and everyone helps out with everyone else's areas," said neighbor Chris Haecherl.
Haecherl and his wife, Brooke, have lived in their home on the alley for 14 years. When asked what they thought of the garden, the couple spoke on top of each other, saying it's "awesome."
"North End homes we don't have huge yards. Many of us don't live in big houses, that extra space has added a whole element into our back yards," said Brooke Haecherl.
Whittig said she could see the transformation in more than just the look of the alley.
"Now we are a total community where we were just a block before that," she said.
The "SNOW Block" is located between 15th Sttreet and 16th Street near Washington Elementary School. More information about the project can be found here.