Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
March, 2005
Regional Report

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The new, improved Brisbane Community Garden.

Good Memories of a Garden Gone

The city of Brisbane has opened a brand new community garden. That's the good news. The sad news is that the old community garden has been closed and the property sold for development. As a member of the former community garden, I feel sad for all of the effort that has been left behind. It's like being a renter; you put your heart and soul into a garden, only to have the owner sell the house.

I spent many hours and not an insubstantial amount of money improving the soil in my plot. Bags and bags of organic compost went into the hard, clay soil. Once the soil was in shape, I covered it with straw mulch and planted vegetables, herbs, bulbs, and perennials. My plot was small -- 5 feet by 8 feet -- but it was large enough to grow cucumbers, tomatoes, some interesting miniature Indian corn, rosemary, and all the chamomile anybody could ever use.

When I was down with cancer four years ago, my garden plot was cared for by my neighbors. If anybody was unable to tend their plot, due to illness or vacation, a yellow flag was inserted in the soil, indicating that the plot was in need of assistance.

I usually visited the garden during the week, to take a break from my computer and to get a breath of fresh air. It was in easy walking distance from my office, and there was always somebody there, working on their garden, weeding, watering, or planting. The weekends at the community garden were a bit too frenetic for me. I preferred to do my gardening in the company of butterflies and bees. There was a self-proclaimed "Garden Boss" who didn't hesitate to tell each renter what they should plant and remind them of the "rules." I avoided her like poison oak.

My immediate neighbor was a gentleman named Red who loved to recycle. Red had a magnificent trellis made of driftwood, strung with wind chimes and a mock spider web, complete with a rubber spider. Sweet peas covered his contemporary trellis in the spring, and beans during the summer. Red also used an old glass shower door as a cold frame in the early spring ... not a bad idea. Red loved poppies and planted the big breadbox poppies that eventually spread throughout the entire garden. I was never sure if they self seeded, or if they had a little help.

I came away from my community garden experience with many unique ideas: using up-ended plastic forks to hold empty seed packets as row markers, or lining a bed with metal hardware cloth to protect it from gophers. I also saw, and learned from, a few mistakes: growing corn or building a trellis on the south side of a plot blocked the sun from the rest of the area.

Will I join the new community garden? Probably not. I have the lovely, shady atrium in my office building to maintain these days. Besides, I don't want to have my heart broken should the city of Brisbane decide to relocate the garden again.

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