By JEFF CLEMETSON
An old saying goes: “April showers bring May flowers.” And while April did not bring the precipitation promised in the first half of the traditional rhyme, the La Mesa Park & Recreation Foundation did its part to deliver on the second half when it held its grand opening for the La Mesa Community Garden on May 1.
The garden, located at the former putting green and golf club house at MacArthur Park, has been a long-awaited amenity for the city’s gardening enthusiasts — especially those living in apartments or condos who lack a yard of their own.
Rick Martin has been waiting for a community garden to open in La Mesa since moving here 10 years ago. When he first arrived and inquired about a community garden, he was told to put his name down on what he thought was a wait list, but turned out to be a petition to set the city to start a garden. Over the years, he watched many attempts at a community garden fail, including a proposed garden at Helix High School and another at a local church that ultimately failed because some parishioners were against the idea. Martin speculates that people thought a garden would invite “the wrong people, homeless people, drug addicts.”
Martin became involved in a group he called the Community Garden Network that advocates for forming community gardens. Since he moved to La Mesa over a decade ago, he said there have been lots of changes in attitudes toward community gardens and other farming hobbies like raising backyard chickens.
“A lot of that red tape got cut and all of a sudden you’re seeing community gardens all over the county.” He said. “Finally it dawned on our city there’s people in need of it — that, wow, this is really helpful.”
Martin said he is very happy to have his plot at the La Mesa Community Garden because his apartment manager was against him starting a garden at his complex. For him, gardening is a healthy way to stay grounded and connect with the earth.
“This is nourishing,” he said. “Anything that goes bad in your life, guess what, go to your garden. If it’s not in your house, go to your community garden, and if you don’t have one, help somebody out who does have one.”
La Mesa resident Susan Wong also got a plot due to constraints of living in a condo without a yard.
“I have two balconies but this is good opportunity,” she said.
Wong said she enjoys community gardening because it is a chance to be outside and to meet other people. “And just hanging out, gives me something to do,” she said, adding that she feel lucky to have one of the plots to grow her tomatoes, squash, corn and flowers. “I think [the community garden] is very nice. I was amazed I got chosen.”
When the garden opened on May 1, there were 40 plots and all were taken by the 40 people who signed up for one.
“We didn’t know if we’d have to do a lottery but we had just enough applications as we had beds,” said La Mesa Park & Recreation Foundation Community Garden chair Michelle Langdon. Since then, demand for a plot has created a waitlist and additional plots are being installed, including ADA accessible plots.
Other future plans for the garden include hosting workshops with master gardeners and other educational opportunities.
The community garden was made possible through grant funding, including a $30,000 grant from The San Diego Foundation and a $5,000 grant from the San Diego Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects. EDCO, The Cushman Family Foundation, Laurie MacDonald of Coldwell Banker West and La Mesa Sunrise Rotary also contributed to the garden through founder level sponsorships.
Garden plots cost $100 per year and water and electricity for the garden storage area — the old golf clubhouse — is paid for by the city.
— Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.