By Delle Willett
The community garden at Juniper and Front streets is a haven for all who enter. More than a place to grow flowers, fruits and vegetables, this garden is good for the soul.
“The harvest enriches our tables, and the community of gardeners nourishes our spirit,” said Robin Parry, Ph.D., grant coordinator of the Juniper-Front Community Garden.
In the 1970s, after the FAA declared the buildings situated on this parcel of land as hazardous to the official flight path for Lindbergh Field and required their removal, the San Diego Unified Port District purchased the property on which the Juniper-Front Community Garden is located.
In 1981, the Garden’s founding mother, Ethel Baron, partnered with the non-profit San Diego Senior Citizens Center who accepted sponsorship of the Garden, providing the required insurance coverage that allowed the Port of San Diego to enter into a lease agreement for the use of the property as a community garden, located at 2260 Front Street in San Diego.
The garden, which will be 40 years old this year, is one of 105 community gardens in the County and 27 in the City of San Diego. It is the oldest community garden in the city, providing a green belt in the culturally and economically diverse urban neighborhood of Bankers Hill, located just north of Downtown San Diego.
Juniper-Front garden is a 501(c)3 non-profit entity, serving the San Diego community. A 10-member volunteer Board of Directors leads the management of the Garden with five officers and five directors. More than a dozen community work teams of member gardeners handle a wide range of tasks required to maintain the Garden in optimal condition.
Covering 20,000 square feet, the Garden currently has 50 plots for individual gardeners, a community meeting space, and more than 12 shared community fruit trees. The garden has more than 75 people on their waitlist for plots.
Originally created for seniors, the Garden is now used by people of all ages and from all walks of life, from all over the world. Many of the members use sustainable gardening principles and their prize crops include tomatoes, peppers, leeks, fava beans, asparagus, strawberries, onions, squash, lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard and flowers galore.
The garden brings people together—all ages and ethnic backgrounds united in a common place to make things grow.
“Our community garden combats rising food costs, allows us to organize with other gardeners, and provides exercise. It’s an education center for learning by exchanging ideas, listening to garden expert speakers, and learning by doing,” said Parry.
Membership fees, grants, and donations support the Garden. Most recently, with the support of neighbors and the Garden’s landlord, the San Diego Port Authority, the garden applied for and was awarded a $5,000 grant from the American Society of Landscape Architects, San Diego chapter (ASLA-SD).
In addition to the financial support from ASLA, Spurlock Landscape Architects has volunteered time to help develop a concept plan and implementation strategies for future garden projects. Leigh Kyle, Principal and Corianne Andrews, Landscape Designer, are leading the project.
Explained Kyle, “The Juniper-Front Garden came to us for help with their great idea for pollinator gardens outside their perimeter garden fence. We thought it was smart that they were thinking about community connections at a people and pollinator scale.”
Spurlock Landscape Architects offered to help flesh out concepts and a basic design for the pollinator gardens along Front and Juniper streets.
Highlights of the upgrade plans include renovating the street-side planting areas (those that neighbors interact with the most) into public-display gardens, incorporating interpretive signage identifying indigenous pollinators, and creating an arbor entrance.
Since January, a five-member Garden Grant Team has worked closely with Spurlock on the creation and design of the pollinator gardens. The team is now poised to coordinate with garden members and community volunteers on the necessary work to build and plant the pollinator gardens. Groundbreaking is scheduled for July 10, when volunteers will level the planting areas for solarizing. Volunteers from the neighborhood will be welcome to join the efforts.
The garden also had a list of future projects for inside the perimeter fence that were a combination of deferred-maintenance projects and improvements to some of their shared spaces, such as tool and materials storage, an expanded, shaded meeting space, and the stabilizing of the community tree terraces.
The Spurlock team organized the garden’s wish list items into a master plan roadmap with a description of project components and a rough cost estimate for each. The garden can use the master plan roadmap for future planning, fundraising, sequencing work, and more.
Given its 40-year history in the neighborhood, the Garden’s new public education spaces will highlight landscape architecture’s pivotal role in designing sustainable environments and the benefits of using indigenous pollinator plants.
Essential components of the agricultural growing cycle, these new pollinator plants will attract more bees, butterflies, birds and other pollinators, ensuring a vibrant, healthy environment for the garden’s year-round crops of vegetables, fruit, and flowers.
Said Parry, “We are grateful to the San Diego chapter of ASLA for awarding the grant to our Garden and excited about partnering with ASLA member Leigh Kyle and the Spurlock team who are guiding us in using cutting-edge landscape architecture principles to redesign and renovate two community garden areas and showcase this project during our 40th-anniversary celebration. This $5,000 grant was crucial seed money in our community garden’s desire to be good neighbors and stewards of the natural environment.”
Explained Chris Stebbins, President of ASLA-SD, “ASLA’s community grant has helped many community groups see their projects become reality. Over 20 past grants have funded community improvement workshops, project design and construction, purchase of landscape amenities, and redesign and improvement of older community projects.”
— Delle Willett has been a marketing and public relations professional for over 30 years, advising clients including the San Diego Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy and others with an emphasis on conservation of the environment. She can be reached at email@example.com.