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A year-long look at community gardens


No. 1: The intro


Look through my posts, as I bounce from community to community, meeting gardeners such as Milli Macen-Moore at the Milagro Allegro community garden in Highland Park.

Credit: Jeff Spurrier


No. 2: Milagro Allegro


The Milagro Allegro community garden is young and small but already something of an urban showpiece.

Credit: Nicole Gatto


No. 3: Santa Monica's Main Street


Ellu Nasser, a farmer's daughter from Oregon, moved here five years ago and has been on a waiting list to get into Santa Monica's Main Street Community Garden since then.

Credit: Jeff Spurrier


No. 4: Santa Monica's Main Street


The first thing you notice when you walk through Santa Monica's wonderfully eccentric Main Street Community Garden are the fences. They divide most of the 69 plots.

Credit: Jeff Spurrier


No. 5: Park Drive


Summer was hard on Alan Toy's tomatoes. There wasn't enough sun, and that led to mildew, but he's not complaining. His herbs -- mint, cilantro, thyme, basil, oregano, sage -- are all doing well, and the carrots he had sown a few weeks ago are coming up thick and bushy.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 6: Solano Canyon


Al Renner, 70, is a familiar name in Southern California community garden circles, legendary for his success in working the system to get more funds and land available for gardens throughout the county.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 7: Skid Row


The newest community garden in Los Angeles has no soil, bakes in all-day sun and is seen by few outsiders except those who pass above in helicopters.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 8: Ocean View Farms


The first thing you notice at Ocean View Farms is the view: a spectacular sweep of Santa Monica Bay from a bluff overlooking Santa Monica Airport. It's so beautiful it hurts (that it's not yours).

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 9: Ocean View Farms


When Warren Miyashiro started gardening at Ocean View Farms in 1985, he looked around for compost to amend the sandy soil. Finding none, he bought a bag from a garden store -- his first, he says, and his last.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 10: Eagle Rockdale


If you discovered tiny pearls covering the roots of last summer's poorly performing tomatoes, you probably had parasitic roundworms called nematodes. And what plagued your garden back then defines the task that you shouldn't avoid right now: It's time to heal the soil.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 11: Manzanita Street


Manzanita Street is the smallest community garden in Los Angeles: 13 irregularly shaped plots terraced into a hill and bisected by stairs linking Sunset Boulevard to a cul-de-sac below.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 12: Altadena


Even though it's almost Christmas, Marie Yeseta is still harvesting tomatoes at her plot in Altadena Community Garden.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 13: The Learning Garden


The Learning Garden at Venice High School is not an official community garden but rather an educational lab open to the community.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 14: The Learning Garden


Grafting -- the joining of two plants to make a single new one -- is a complicated procedure, a mixture of surgery and carpentry for the gardener attempting the procedure.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 15: Norman Harriton


Location is not everything. Just look at the Norman Harriton / Franklin Hills Community Garden, perched at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, west of the landmark Shakespeare Bridge in one of Los Angeles' lovely neighborhoods.

Credit: Jeff Spurrier


No. 16: Fountain


Only a few years ago, the tale of the 20,000-square-foot lot at the corner of Fountain Avenue and St. Andrews Place -- a stone's throw from the 101 Freeway in Hollywood -- was just plain sad.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 17: Francis Avenue


Although the Francis Avenue Community Garden is small -- only 18 10-foot-by-10-foot plots—it's a Meso-America foodies' delight.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 18: Wattles Farm


Wattles Farm is one of the legendary urban gardens in Los Angeles, situated on 4 acres on the grounds of the historic Wattles Mansion, now a park run by the city.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 19: Wattles Farm


As in most community gardens, Wattles Farm has a rule against trees in personal plots, lest the shade impede crops and raise tensions among neighboring gardeners. One exception here is the lemon tree in the space gardened by Gina Thomas, head of the tree committee.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 20: Raymond Avenue


It's a typical story: An empty lot where a house has burned down lies deserted for decades. It becomes a gang hangout, a place to walk dogs. That used to be the situation on Raymond Avenue in West Adams.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 21: Proyecto Jardín


This project behind White Memorial Hospital is unusual among L.A. community gardens. It's both community and communal -- no private plots, no fences, no fees.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 22: Venice


Venice Community Garden is not quite a year old, but considering the difficulty of its birth, even with three master gardeners as midwives, the fact that it exists at all is noteworthy.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 23: Micheltorena


The community garden at Micheltorena Elementary School broke ground just four months ago, replacing seven parking spaces with dwarf fruit trees and kid-friendly, low-profile raised beds.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 24: Stanford Avalon


They don't garden so much as farm here, just like in the Bajío of Mexico. The 180 plots are large, roughly 30 by 45 feet, one per family, and the competition can be an intense.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 25: Stanford Avalon


At the monthly meeting of the Stanford Avalon Community Garden, water use is at the top of the list for President Luis Gamboa.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 26: Monterey Road


Watering at the Monterey Road Eco-Community Garden (East) in Glendale is slightly more complicated than at most gardens, requiring the use of a key kept locked away in a shed.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 27: Wrigley Village


The 2400 block of Pacific Avenue in Long Beach is not the kind of place you expect to find a community garden. It's a block lined with businesses servicing the working class neighborhood, in sight of the towers of downtown Long Beach but low-rise, low income and low-rent in tone.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 28: Long Beach


At first glance, the Long Beach Community Garden would seem to be a gardener's Fantasyland. The 8.5-acre site next to El Dorado Nature Center is flat and gets all-day sun and cooling on-shore breezes.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 29: Long Beach


Southern California's community gardens differ in size, location and demographic, but you'll find one recurring trait at them all: generosity.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 30: Vermont Square


Vermont Square is a place that deserves a big group hug from L.A. gardeners. Since founder Helen Johnson died a few years ago, twin gardens straddling the 4700 block of traffic-clogged Vermont Avenue south of USC have struggled.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 31: Sepulveda Garden Center


An increase in fees, the first major hike since this place was founded in 1966, has been roiling the Sepulveda Garden Center, the mother of all community gardens in Los Angeles.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 32: Sepulveda Garden Center


At age 45, this gracefully aging beauty is continually being reborn. Annual kitchen crops rise next to an heirloom-filled plot with plants that are decades old.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 33: Proyecto Pastoral


Just 2 months old, the tiny Proyecto Pastoral garden in Boyle Heights is going through a growth spurt, like a grade-schooler who jumps two shoe sizes in one season.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 34: People's Garden


The People's Garden at Woodrow Wilson High School sits at the lowest part of the sprawling campus, the sloping lot bound by a chain-link fence and a low wall on a quiet street.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 35: El Sereno


When a late-night hit-and-run driver recently crashed into El Sereno Community Garden's just-completed retaining wall, co-founder Marie Salas was on the case. She took pictures. She collected pieces of the car left behind. She canvassed the neighborhood, looking for witnesses.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 36: Culver City


Just about every community garden has a waiting list. Thirty names are on the list here, and though that may not sound like many, the Culver City Community Garden has only 16 plots. Only four have changed hands in the last three years.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 37: Rosewood


Walk through the Rosewood Community Garden and you'll see roots running all the way back to Central America, where most of the 25 plot-holders originated.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 38: Growing Experience


The community garden at the Carmelitos housing development in north Long Beach is within a stone's throw of train tracks on what used to be a tumbleweed-filled lot, notorious as a crime-ridden place to dump trash (or worse) and a magnet for gangs, locals say.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 39: Growing Experience


The thick hedge at the entrance to the Growing Experience community garden is Mexican marigold, above, a drought-tolerant bush whose scent has touches of lemon and mint.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 40: Jardin del Rio


At a recent group meeting at Elysian Valley's Jardin del Rio Community Garden, garden manager David de la Torre wound up his announcements with a request for members to leave the gates open at both ends (like the one above) when they're tending their plots.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 41: Jardin del Rio


When Project Youth Green Community Garden broke ground three years ago on a 4-acre parcel within Roger Jessup Park in Pacoima, it was a different world.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 42: Jardin del Rio


Teodoro Mercado was an out-of-work handyman who found a new career in sustainable urban agriculture overseeing Project Youth Green, which we first blogged about last week.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 43: Granada Hills


The bottle gourd hanging down from the trellis in Sayed Zaman's plot in the Granada Hills Salad Bowl community garden is a fearsome fruit, yard-long pods that look like something from "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers."

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 44: North Hollywood


Recent changes at the Agricultural Center of North Hollywood High School, the community garden's landlord, have made composting increasingly difficult.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 45: Las Flores


At Las Flores, the community gardeners have learned to deal with the extremes: heat in summer, frost in winter, and alkaline water, clay soil and waves of rapacious pests all year long. Although some of their solutions will sound familiar, others are unusual.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 46: Las Flores


At Las Flores community garden, you don't have to fetch compost. It comes to you.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 47: Oak Park


Like many gardeners Daniel Cashdan, 10, has a vision of what he will do with his harvest. He's trying to grow a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 48: Cornucopia


Summer is usually a difficult time to cultivate cabbage in Southern California, but gardener Karen Hoh at the Cornucopia Community Garden in Ventura has a system to deal with the fluctuating temperatures here.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 49: Oxnard Senior Vegetable Garden


Ora Cole, the garden president, is 82. Foster, her husband, is 74. (That's the couple, above.) To be eligible for one of the 17 plots, a gardener has to be older than 55.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 50: Monterey Road


It's transition time at the Monterey Road Eco-Community Garden (West) in Glendale, and plot partners Lindsey Hansen and Tom Selling are putting in lettuce, peas, potatoes, onions and garlic.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 51: Farm to Fork


Among the most interesting topics of discussion at the fifth annual Gathering of the Community Gardens Farm to Fork conference: restaurant-supported agriculture.

Credit: Ann Summa


No. 52: The end


It's transition time in the garden. For me, that means the end of my year in the community garden.

Credit: Ann Summa

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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