By Talia Tinari

Gardeners in the Santa Monica Community Gardens have been contributing articles to the Santa Monica Daily Press, on and off, on a bi-monthly basis since March of 2016. We’ve written articles on gardening how-to’s, like how to recycle common household items into garden tools, to gardening methods, such as biodynamics and companion planting. We’ve written about sustainability in our community such as how to reduce the decline of Monarch Butterflies (while establishing a Monarch Waystation at the Main Street Garden), and what it means to grow strictly by organic methods. We’ve profiled popular vegetables and herbs and shared how to grow and cook them. We’ve also written about members of the community, like gardener Randy Ziglar, who has been part of the garden community since its inception in 1976 and Garden Specialist, Teague Weybright, who joined the city staff in September 2016 as the first dedicated garden specialist.

The community gardeners are keen to share their knowledge with you through the SMDP, and want to make sure everyone knows more about each of the community garden habitats. There are currently four Community Gardens in Santa Monica. Main Street Garden located on Main between Hollister and Strand, Park Drive North and South situated on Park Drive between Santa Monica and Broadway, and Euclid Garden on Euclid between Broadway and Colorado.

Main Street was the first garden, established in 1976. With 73 plots, the Main Street Garden is the largest and most visible, encompassing an entire city block. This year Main Street has initiated a community plot where gardeners and visitors can gather. On the second Saturday of each month, from 9 am to 11 am, and with coffee and bagels aplenty, the gardeners gather for breakfast, often sharing stories and trading gardening tips. All of the garden gates are open and visitors stroll the paths, many joining the gardeners in lively conversation and leaving with the treasure of a seedling, fruit or flower.

Park Drive was the city’s second garden space. The North and South Gardens are comprised of 38 garden plots, each area divided by a grassy space crowned with a stand of California Sycamores. The garden provides a respite from the entertainment industry conglomerates on Colorado and the 10 freeway traffic that buzzes nearby. It was designed with community in mind, with a designated area for gathering. The garden has hosted families along the Kidical Mass Bike route, in celebration of Earth Day, offering activities such as seed burst making for kids and workshops on vermiculture and composting.

The Euclid Garden followed Park Drive and is tucked away behind the swing-sets and jungle gyms of Euclid Park. It has 10 plots with 3 additional used as workshop plots for the L.A. Spanish School next door.

Ishihara Learning Garden opened in late February of 2017 and has produced thousands of pounds of food that has been shared amongst regular volunteers as well as the greater Santa Monica Community. The garden model of Ishihara differs from the others in that it is a communal garden. It offers nine raised beds from which produce has been grown, shared and donated through the efforts of a regular group of volunteers. The garden hosts the People Concern, as well as school groups. Notably, Ishihara has had zero green waste, as all plant material is composted on-site. There is also a colonnade of citrus trees—the city’s first urban fruit tree orchard.

Behind the scenes, the Garden Program is supported by The Community Garden Advisory Committee (CGAC), comprised of site representatives from each garden. The site reps are gardeners who support both the community of gardeners and city staff by promoting active gardening and community outreach and education. They also facilitate administrative changes to support the growing garden program.

Although there is currently a limited number of individual garden plots, Ishihara Garden is open to all Santa Monica residents. This year the CGAC established a standing subcommittee to work on ways to increase gardening opportunities. The CGAC has met with the planners in an effort to maximize the amount of space designated for the Gardens at the future Airport Park. The committee is also looking into the feasibility of the Urban Agriculture Incentive Program, a program that offers a tax break to property owners who utilize vacant lots for growing food. The CGAC has also made formal requests to increase the number of gardens in the City.

To learn more about your Community Gardens look for our articles in the SMDP. We welcome visitors to the gardens. They are accessible to gardeners from sunrise to sunset and visitors may tour whenever gardeners are working and the gates are open. Ishihara work-days are currently on Monday and Wednesday from 9am to 11 am. The Community Gar-den Advisory Committee Meets on the FIRST Tuesday of every other month. For gardening questions you can connect with us at santamonicaroots@gmail.com and also keep up to date at The Community Garden’s City website page: https://www.smgov.net/Departments/CCS/