We are all so fortunate to live in San Diego, where the local sustainable food movement is in full force. School gardens are flourishing, community co-ops are growing and we have our pick of local organic farms to visit. What are you waiting for? Dig in!
Home Gardens. It doesn’t matter what kind of space you live in, home gardening is doable for everyone. The best part is that gardening is budget friendly and offers a jumpstart into new healthy living habits.
Victory Gardens are a fun option for families. Victory Gardens were introduced during World War I to aid the war effort by reducing the pressure on public food supply. Victory Garden values hold true today and San Diego has its own established Victory Garden program (VGSD). For a reasonable donation, VGSD will come to your home and establish a garden in just a day. www.victorygardenssandiego.com
Home Garden Do’s and Don’ts
Don’t get hung up on a large-scale plan. One 4’x4’ raised bed will yield plenty of fresh vegetables. www.squarefootgardening.com
Do recycle materials. Grow potatoes in trashcans and herbs in old tires. Homely gardens are often the most welcoming and the prettiest.
Don’t worry if your growing space is small. Container gardening is a great and easy way to grow food for your family. For ideas, read “Kids Container Garden: Year-round Projects for Inside and Out” by Cindy Krezel.
Do get started today! Visit your local nursery for advice. My favorite is City Farmers Nursery. Kids will love their resident animals. www.cityfarmersnursery.com.
From cooking spinach lasagna with harvested veggies to building and planting a new fairy garden, the Museum School students make great use of their urban, Bankers Hill location, not letting lack of space deter them. Kids in grades K–7 work together, the older ones helping the youngsters to plant native plants in front of their school and to keep their school garden thriving.
“Kids are able to study botany through gardening. The Kitchen Science Department, which is part of our rotation program, supports the idea of farm to plate,” says Museum School director Phil Beaumont. “One practical example is our kids planted and harvested vegetables and had a chef come in and cook with them.”
If your child’s school has a garden, then make it a priority to lend a hand. If a garden is lacking, then by all means get one started. You don’t need a green thumb to lead the way. There are many local organizations willing to help you. The San Diego Masters Gardeners offer school garden consulting, grant opportunities and volunteer training. www.mastergardenerssandiego.org.
School Garden Benefits to Kids
- Connects kids to the natural world in personal way. Kids see the world differently when they’ve “raised” a living thing.
- Inspires environmental stewardship. We all save what we appreciate.
- Encourages healthy eating habits, combating the epidemic of childhood obesity.
- Includes different learning styles. Gardening’s hands-on interconnected approach benefits everyone.
- Teaches self-sufficiency. Hugh Bennett, a beloved conservationist, said it best, “Take care of the land and the land will take care of you.”
- Brings math and science to life. From measuring plant heights to using fractions for seed germination estimates, gardening makes math fun.
San Diego is filled with flourishing neighborhood plots that bring communities together. Recently our City Council voted to make gardening and local farming easier, with needed adjustments to community garden ordinances and reducing restrictions on the keeping of chickens, goats and bees. There is no better time to join a community garden. For all your community garden questions and needs visit: www.sandiegocommunitygardennetwork.org.
Community gardens are popular, and if you find yourself on a waiting list why not replace your front lawn with a garden instead? Go to www.sdfoodnotlawns.com for more information. Or hire help through one of the many local landscape companies that specialize in growing edibles. Your neighbors are sure to stop by for a chat about your new endeavor and an informal community garden just might end up in your front yard!
How to Get Involved
Donate supplies and funds to a local organization that is dedicated to helping people garden and farm locally. Check out www.sandiegoroots.org for some “farm to fork” inspiration.
Volunteer at a local farm. Teach, build, fundraise, organize or just dig! Wild Willow Farm is a wonderful place to start.
Eat Locally. Shop at farmers markets and eat at restaurants that feature cuisine grown locally. Pick up a copy of the fabulous magazine Edible San Diego for suggestions or visit www.ediblecommunities.com/sandiego.
Visit a Farm Stand
Vote for legislation that preserves local farmland and protects farmers. Visit Sdfoodpolicy.org for the latest news.
Community Supported Agriculture or CSA’s are an easy way to support local farmers and share the bounty. Simply buy into a CSA and share the cost of production and get a fair amount of the harvest. Best of all, most CSA’s deliver your “box” of seasonal goodies to a nearby drop point or right to your door.
Suzie’s Farm in San Diego’s South Bay offers an excellent CSA program that provides quality organic produce weekly or bi-weekly to subscribers with a choice of a small or large box. Their website also provides recipes for featured veggies. A free tour of the farm is available to shareholders and not to be missed.
CSA’s can be meat- and dairy-based, too. Living Earth Ranch in San Diego County raises chickens completely sustainably and organically. Order online and pick up a “dressed to cook” chicken at your local farmers market. Opt for their six chickens CSA program and get an even better deal.
Visit a Local Farm
Bates Nut Farm
15954 Woods Valley Rd., Valley Center
Hidden Haven Farms
18540 West Boundary Truck Trail, Jamul
Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center
2525 N Ave., National City
Seabreeze Organic Farm
3909 Arroyo Sorrento Rd., Carmel Valley
Temecula Valley Strawberry Farms
5452 5th St., Fallbrook
Wild Willow Farm
2550 Sunset Ave., Tijuana River Valley (San Ysidro)
Laura Pardo enjoyed five months of working on farms in Europe with her family and is currently gardening in her front yard in South Park.
Updated: January 2013