If you're ever lonely, I have a quick and easy cure for you. Visit your local community garden. Wander through the pathways, ask questions of the folks who lovingly tend their little patches of paradise, and I guarantee that you'll feel revitalized.
I spent a few days photographing community gardens in San Luis Obispo County and fell in love with the bountiful, well-used and well-cared-for Estero Community Garden, just a jog off historic seaside Highway 1 in Morro Bay.
The large, fenced garden that flourishes beside the Estero Bay United Methodist Church was supposed to be a temporary use for the church's vacant land. But it didn't take long for officials to realize there could be no better use for the land or the community than to maintain and expand the gardens.
Now enthusiastic gardeners lease 42 plots, some 12 x 15 feet and the newest 15 x 15 feet, for about $65 a year. One free space provides food and garden experiences to children who attend day care at the church.
Master Gardeners and volunteers constructed pathways, laid mulch, fashioned garden beds and fencing, and introduced irrigation. Garden members built a handsome garden shed with donated lumber. Members can use a potting area, seed-starting bench, produce-rinsing area, and tool storage.
I like the banking system they've established. Damaged fruit and veggies, weeds and trimmings get deposited into compost bins. The resident hens and rooster feast on the compost and leave their "gold" behind. The "gold" produced by the decomposing manure and compost gets re-deposited in the garden, where it enriches the soil and grows bigger, healthier plants.
Take a stroll through your local community garden. You'll leave with a new enthusiasm and appreciation for gardens and gardeners. Oh, but watch out - you may leave with an armload of zucchini - it's that time of year.
Tips for Starting a Community Garden in Your Area
- Join with like-minded gardeners and plan ahead. Lay out some rules. For instance you might be organic gardeners and you can require that others not use toxic chemicals.
- Find a flat, sunny plot of ground and don't be afraid to ask your city, county or a private landowner for use of the space.
- Draw your plot plans and include pathways, as well as work areas such as potting, seed-starting, composting, produce cleaning, garden sheds and greenhouses.
- You'll need water along with plenty of spigots (so you don't drag hoses). Establish usage rules so you waste no water. Encourage soaker hoses, and hand sprinklers with shutoff valves.
- Fence the entire garden, if possible. Ask local merchants to donate supplies and enlist the help of all members.
- Establish a seed-sharing, propagating day. Sharing is what community gardens are all about.
See more Southern California gardening articles.