The Resource Conservation District (RCD) of Greater San Diego expanded the Tijuana River Valley Community Garden through planning and coordination, increased communication with gardeners, a series of conservation-themed trainings, and installation of new garden plots and a native pollinator hedgerow. The grant also leveraged additional funds for the project, including a large grant from the County Board of Supervisors to fund the infrastructure needed for the garden expansion and a mini-grant from the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD) to complement training offerings for gardeners.
The community garden expansion includes 72 new garden plots measuring 30’ x 30’, bringing the total number of plots to 210, as well as seven quarter-acre plots to support urban agriculture on a larger scale. RCD staff visited with gardeners on a one-to-one basis and answered questions about the expansion, were present during all major construction days, and coordinated community workdays and workshops. Staff also reached out to the 170+ people on the garden waiting list to fill the new plots.
The grant also helped reached a long-term goal for the community garden – planting a native hedgerow to create habitat for pollinators. The 165 plants were selected for their suitability to thrive in the garden’s microclimate and cascading bloom times to provide a year-round nectar source. A partner organization designed the hedgerow layout and irrigation system, and tools were purchased for the community planting day.
Through the NACD grant and CARCD match funding, eleven workshops were held to inform gardeners about practices that conserve natural resources and help them make the best use of their plots and produce. Topics included garden design, irrigation, composting, zero-waste cooking and preserving, nightshade plant family, edible garden weeds, cover cropping and healthy, organic soil building practices. The workshops were attended by 180 participants.
The garden expansion project led to a new relationship with a neighboring farm that brings composted manure and has shared their time and equipment to clear land for various components of the expansion.
In addition, several other meetings, clean-up days, social events and garden work days were held throughout the grant period, including two orientation meetings for new gardeners, two community fence building days to layout the new plots and three community clean-up events to pick up trash and debris to prevent it from entering nearby waterways, two of which were followed by gardener potlucks. These events were attended by 338 people.
The additional staff time allowed for more interaction with new and existing gardeners, leading to better communication and helping new gardeners settle into the garden community. The rental income from new plot holders and ¼ acre tenants will enable the RCD to continue coordinating community events and maintain regular communications.
Holding regular events and workshops enhances the sense of community, knowledge and gardener initiative in contributing to projects such as maintaining the pollinator garden, bringing in mulch to share, building planter boxes for each other, and installing drip irrigation. Plans are in the works to continue events, such as workshops and an annual Soil Shindig. The RCD is developing on-site education and demonstration projects such as a carbon farming project, and is working with local partners to establish a new farmer mentorship program.
Through the garden expansion, the RCD is exploring new and exciting ways to leverage urban agriculture in bringing conservation education to the community. The potential is great, and they are committed to expanding engagement with local students, residents and partners.