Gardens to Tables

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To help foster healthy soil after the summer growing system, consider putting in cover crops, which can help suppress weeds and control pests in addition to improving the soil.

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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 $100 a year I can call my own. After some jumping up and down, I thought: what now? While 200 square feet of dirt doesn't sound like a lot, there's actually 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 and travel advice for those seeking a farm-to-table experience.

When I'm not gardening or playing tennis, I work as a writer and editor covering everything from travel and food to sports and parking (yes, there is a magazine for the parking industry). In the past, I have worked in the film and television industry, taught communication studies and even had a stint working for a private investigator. If you'd like to reach me, send an e-mail to  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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