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Ann Shepphird, Community Gardener
After years of being limited in my gardening to a back porch and houseplants, I came into a real garden of my own in May of 2008. That’s when I became a landowner. Well, actually, I became the proud lessee of a plot in the Santa Monica Community Gardens – a 200-square-foot piece of dirt that for $60 a year I can call my own. After some jumping up and down, I thought: what now? 200 square feet of dirt doesn’t sound like a lot but, truth be told, there’s a heckuva lot you can do with 200 square feet of dirt.
So I started with tomatoes (who doesn’t in the spring?) and basil -- and marigolds to keep the bugs away -- and I also put in a little watermelon plant I found at a nursery. It was so cute, so petite (maybe four inches in diameter) that the thought of a big ole watermelon coming from it was quite humorous to me. It got funnier when it became “the watermelon that ate Cleveland” ultimately taking over almost every square inch of the plot (in and around the other plants) and growing a total of 10 30-pound puppies.
At each step along the way, I had questions – what do I do with this vine growing all over the garden? How do you know when to harvest a watermelon? What does a couple DO with a 30-pound watermelon? I mean, I know you eat them but are there perhaps some, er, different ways to eat them? The answers – especially on the gardening side – were harder to come by than I thought they would be. There were a lot of food and recipe sites but not many garden sites that aren’t either university agriculture departments or professional nurseries – not the place I was seeking, which would provide a community for gardeners to come together to help each other to grow better produce and make it into better food.
So hopefully we will provide that connection here, along with recipes using seasonal produce, travel advice, education -- and stories about the community gardening scene. I mean, how can I not talk about the gardener who put garden gnomes (ends up they were the seven dwarves and he has toddlers) in his community garden? Or the guy hardly anybody ever sees and a number of other gardeners warned me about who has the six-foot fence surrounding his “community” garden. Or my neighbors: One to the west growing ice plant and one to the east growing catnip because it mellows out her children?