Natural Perspectives: Rescuing a mess of a garden plot

There is a season for everything. And this is the season to finish planting a summer garden.

There is still time left to plant summer crops like squash, beans, cucumbers and corn here in coastal Southern California. Otherwise, wait until mid-September when fall crops like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale can be planted.

I have been working my backside off the past few weeks to get my summer garden planted at the Huntington Beach Community Garden. Since this is my second year at the community garden, it should have been a simple matter to plant it.

But, no. The folks at Southern California Edison, the landowner, required that we remove our raised beds last December. Since I initially had hired someone to dig only the planting areas, not the pathways, my garden was a mess of rocks. The reason for that is that my plot and many others near the gate are located where a former gravel parking lot had been constructed. There are far more rocks than dirt in that area, and it is impossible to dig. That was why almost all of us had raised beds.

I was faced with the seemingly impossible task of restructuring my garden and dealing with the rocks. And if I didn't do it tout de suite, then my garden plot was in danger of being assigned to someone on the waiting list.

I managed to get my garden weeded after multiple visits this spring. But after clearing it of weeds, I had no energy left to dig and plant. I would wait a few weeks and return, thinking that I could start planting.

Horrors, each time the ground was covered with new weeds! There seemed to be no end to the amount of weeds that the garden would grow. Each time I visited, I only weeded and never had the energy left to plant it.

My friend Judi Smith has the plot adjacent to mine with the same issues. She finally hired a guy to dig up her garden for her. That seemed like a genius idea, so I followed suit and hired Vic's and my gardener, Jesus, to help me get my garden going two weeks ago.

We dug, we removed rocks, we laid down concrete block pathways over those blasted rocks, we spread soil amendments, and we planted. By we, I mean that Jesus did most of the work while I rested on my garden bench.

By the end of the day, my garden was planted with the largest transplants that I could find in the nursery. It was an instant garden of tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, and peppers. It even had a few marigolds for color.

Over the last two weeks, I have filled in some of the blanks by planting wax and green beans from seed, and putting in transplants of summer and winter squash, more marigolds, and zinnias. My little plot finally looks pretty again.

I still need to plant my pole beans. These beans will be harvested as dried beans for making soup. I have a nice crop of Cherokee Trail of Tears beans growing at home that makes delicious black beans. But I wanted to try other bean varieties, and that's where the plot at the community garden will help by providing me with more space to try new things.

I bought some Ojo de Cabra (eye of the goat) bean seeds from Native Seed Search, an organization that goes to native tribes throughout the American Southwest and Mexico to obtain rare and unusual varieties. The Ojo de Cabra bean seeds are from Chihuahua, Mexico.

I showed them to Jesus, and he knew of these beans. He said that they are delicious. I hope they will grow for me, given my late start. I also have Taos Red, Hopi Black, and Frijol Chivita (Little Goat Beans) to try.

I'm going to plant a few winter squash from seed, but that is really pushing the season as it takes nearly three months for winter squash to set fruit and ripen. I have seeds of Navajo Gray Hubbard squash, Mayo blushers, and Mayo Cushaws. Sadly, I'm almost out of room and I'm not going to be able to plant them all this year, nor all of the bean varieties that I have either.

Being able to grow unusual varieties is just one of many reasons for having a garden. I love sitting on my bench at the community garden, enjoying the bird songs around me, admiring my beans and squash as they poke their heads up through the soil, and watching other gardeners as they peacefully tend their crops.

I love seeing small children come to the garden to learn about growing and harvesting. And I love it that our community garden provides so much food for the needy when each gardener donates excess produce. It's all good.

VIC LEIPZIG and LOU MURRAY are Huntington Beach residents and environmentalists. You can reach them at

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