Leslie Ocker drives stakes into the water-soaked earth, marking a boundary. Jane Torrence and Sherm Fox stretch lengths of hose between strips set off by twine.

A neighbor leans against the fence and promises that he will help keep unwanted traffic out when the planting's done. George Lyon, a retired plumber who lives across the street, has volunteered to fix some underground plumb-ing.This large plot of land, located at 700 South and 600 East, is the latest acquisition of Wasatch Fish and Gardens' community garden project. Unused land in eight different Salt Lake sites has been lent to the program, with a guarantee of at least one growing season. For $10, families or individuals can "rent" a piece of that land and raise the crops they want.

Emphasis is on helping low-income and refugee families get the land, seed, tools and knowledge to grow some of their own food, according to Torrence, who directs the project. In exchange for the $10, the gardener gets all of those things, as long as supplies are available. Seeds have been donated by companies nationwide. Wasatch Fish and Gardens pays the water bill with the money it scrapes up from donations.

"We have a real shortage of tools," Torrence said. "We could always use donations. We opened three new gardens this year, and that has exponentially thrown us into No-Toolville. We could also always use people with gardening skills to help us teach people how to adapt gardening to this climate. A lot of the people who plant in the gardens have had experience somewhere very different."

Ocker, a VISTA volunteer, is the garden coordinator and keeps track of plot assignments. She also sees that participants attend an orientation. Next year, the project will lose its VISTA project status.

Torrence has taken her nutrition expertise to various countries, including China and Mexico. But she's obviously enchanted by the diversity she sees in these gardens. Many of the gardeners are Eastern Europeans who raise different kinds of radishes - black ones and white ones, for instance. A number of Asian gardeners brought seeds from their homelands when they came to the United States. Others have gotten exotic plants from the USU Extension Service.

And the native-born and their new neighbors are learning about each other as they work the land, side by side.

"People from other countries are being able to connect with the land - this new land," Torrence said. "That's a powerful experience."

There are still a dozen garden spots available throughout the valley. To reserve a garden or to volunteer, call 364-7765.