Urban gardening has become a trend that an increasing number of San Diego residents are pursuing, especially during the pandemic. And the City is helping out, having just debuted a new website, sandiego.gov/urban-farming, that provides information and assistance for those wishing to become successful urban farmers.
As more people are spending time at home due to Covid-19 public health orders, urban farming has seen an uptick in popularity. And the City is making resources available to support San Diegans in turning their sod into seed.
Dr. Julie Cramer, who lives near Sunset Cliffs and has been home gardening for years, finds her front-yard garden to be not only filling but fulfilling.
“It’s become a conversation opener with neighbors in addition to growing good food for ourselves and contributing food to others,” said Cramer, who is involved with her son, Avery, in a venture known as Co-Harvest Foundation, a nonprofit working to help end food-insecurity in San Diego.
“You need the offline time to think,” said Byron Wear of the appeal of his front-yard garden in old Roseville. “You come out and work in your garden and you have nice neighbors to talk to. You just feel good.”
Having your garden is also handy, noted Wear, who grows an assortment of lettuce, herbs and spices, beefsteak tomatoes, finger carrots, and especially beets.
“It’s like having a refrigerator,” he joked. “You want to have a salad tonight? OK, go on down and get some romaine.”
Avery Cramer, a 2013 Point Loma High alumni, founded his nonprofit as a way to “better serve our communities with healthy produce while helping eliminate poverty and the environmental degradation resulting from industrial agriculture.”
He added Co-Harvest “connects all communities by accessing previously unused, arable land and establishing a new avenue for philanthropy, food sovereignty, and community building. When looking at poverty in America, it becomes all too clear that food insecurity is at the crux of this issue.
“The food we eat is at the core of our mental/physical health, and we must promote a food system that focuses on the needs of individual communities. Our position is simple; cheap/sustainable/healthy food is not only necessary for humans but also the betterment of the world's ecosystems.”
Julie Cramer donates a portion of her crop to Avery, who then “repurposes” it sending it the food needy.
Starting your urban garden is simpler, and less expensive, than you might think if you’re resourceful, said Wear.
“I got free lumber on Craig’s List and I had the pieces pressure treated so I wouldn’t have to deal with water rot,” he said.
Concerning the origin of his urban garden, Wear said, “This plot was full of pickleweed and we said we’d be willing, at our cost, to take that out and put in a garden and have it open for the neighborhood where anybody could grab anything.”
Julie Cramer noted urban gardening is the perfect activity to engage in during the pandemic.
“It’s a talking point, and it helps to build community,” she said, adding it’s natural for social distancing. “You don’t have to be close to people when you’re talking to them about your garden here in the middle of the coronavirus,” she added.
Cramer cited numerous advantages to growing your veggies.
“Frankly, it just tastes better,” she claimed. “And there’s less wasting of food, as you don’t have to store it in the refrigerator. You just pick it as you need it, and it continues to grow.”
If you work your garden right, said Wear, “You are going to produce more than what it was worth. It’s a wonderful thing to do. And the weather here is perfect.”
Cramer, who is now largely working from home, noted her garden is not only an “investment,” but provides a “really nice balance” to working at home both inside and out.
“It’s a good way to go out and relax,” she said. “And putting the garden out front contributes to neighborliness. It’s been very positive.”
Urban farming is not only natural but progressive, concluded Avery Cramer.
“The need to transport a majority of our food thousands of miles is outdated and lacks the 21st-century innovation that enables industries to thrive using up-to-date technology and avant-garde practices,” he said.
“Our inability to look beyond cookie-cutter households with lawns has led to a society where people live in large homes but are unable to nutritionally sustain their families. Food insecurity should not be a problem in areas where year-round growing seasons are available.”
For more information, visit SDCoHarvest.com.
URBAN COMMUNITY GARDENS
There are numerous urban community gardens throughout Point Loma from which to choose.
Here are two:
Ocean Beach Community Garden
Steven Bladen, the membership coordinator for this high-profile community garden at 2351 Soto St., is responsible for the upkeep and maintenance to qualify each year for a permit to utilize the land.
“It’s at the end Soto near Collier Park up the hill from Nimitz Boulevard,” said Bladen, noting working guidelines for the garden’s use are at sandiego.gov. “It was founded by a group of Ocean Beach residents during the early ’70s. I believe the land used to be a parking lot for their parks' equipment.”
Pointing out garden plots presently number 52 with an average size of 200 square feet, Bladen said most gardeners “are families or couples.”
Regarding gardening, Bladen said, “You do a six-month agreement, several pages, including some City terminology and indemnification.”
Is there a waiting list for plots?
“For sure,” said Bladen who is one of a five-member governing board overseeing the community garden’s active plots.
“It’s very much geared toward growing vegetables and flowers,” said Bladen, adding, “You’re not allowed to grow things and sell them commercially at places like a farmers market. The purpose is for residents to grow their vegetables for their use. That’s the focus here."
Find out more information about OB Community Garden on Facebook.
OB Woman’s Club Garden
The women tending Ocean Beach Woman’s Club community garden, who are renters paying for use of the space, don’t need any help maintaining it. The garden at 2160 Bacon St. remains a community attraction and a source of local pride.
“We have individual plots that are rented out for a six-month basis,” said Valerie Tuck, Woman’s Club garden manager. “All but one of the nine gardeners are members of the club. It's 100% organic and everyone has their own thing going on.
“There are strawberries, all kinds of tomatoes, lettuces. Some folks have flowers, squash, zucchini, peppers of all kinds. There are also a few birdbaths and seed out for our feathered friends. We have three massive rain tanks that see us through until summer.”
Added Tuck: “The parrots love all the sunflowers. We take donations, in fact, a couple of months ago a few of us were gardening and a local walked by and said she has seedlings to give if we wanted. She was just bored during quarantine and didn't have anywhere to plant them. Of course, we took them.”
MOST POPULAR TO GROW IN HOME GARDENS