There’s been a lot of noise lately about community gardens — especially in Encinitas, where council recently agreed to consider one. The naysayers will have you believe community gardens are trashy, a complete waste of space, and an even more complete waste of time. Maybe they’re right. Does Encinitas really need a community garden?
Now, one thing is for sure: despite claims that growing your own produce can help overcome the down economy, you are not going to feed your family of four a big meal from the garden each night. It’s not possible — unless you’ve claimed a few acres of land, are a master of planning, own a tractor and don’t mind eating tomatoes and zucchini all the time.
Despite all that, maintaining a garden is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have (well, besides winning a Lombardi trophy as a starting quarterback, perhaps). I liken gardening to raising a child, without the dirty diapers or whining. A garden provides hours of mindless entertainment. Hours, I’m telling you. One menial task leads to another, and the next thing you know your entire day has been spent playing in the dirt. Not a bad day at all.
All dirt-related topics aside, one of the best things about a community garden is the long-lasting friendships that are formed. You come to know and appreciate each gardener’s style and personality. Gardeners are fairly mellow people who band together to share tips and banter on all topics we know nothing about. The word “community” is just as important as “garden” in this scenario.
As for a community garden becoming a complete dump, I know from experience they tend to look a little rough in spots, but most plots are well-kept and cared for. Not every garden is perfect, you must know. Some, such as the garden in Carlsbad, are poorly managed and regulated. People do wait more than three years for a small piece of land at the garden, while some plots remain barren and deserted. It’s certainly not fair.
Not that the lack of supervision is a bad thing, mind you. I happen to enjoy the fact that the city isn’t calculating my every move (which is a blessing, really, considering city headquarters is right across the street). The sense of autonomy is nice. The city does seem mildly interested in the garden lately, but I’m hoping it’s for our own good.
Come to think of it, Encinitas could learn a thing or two from the Carlsbad community garden. It’s an experimental work in progress, and it seems to be coming along just fine. I know the garden’s namesake, Harold Smerdu, undoubtedly had a tough time convincing the right people to make this happen. In the end, his victory was a victory for the fortunate few who obtained a plot up there. People are happy to be alive and gardening in Carlsbad.
So does Encinitas need a community garden? I say why the hell not. What have you got to lose? You know, one thing the good folks of Encinitas (and especially Leucadians) are good at is drawing a benign issue out so long, it no longer seems relevant. Pencil in “Community Garden” below “101 Streetscape” and “Roundabouts.” You’re living the good life if this all you have to worry about. Just make the Encinitas community garden happen.
As surprised as I was to hear the news, I applaud council’s approval of the project. The real debate in Encinitas, it seems, is where to put the garden. Maybe the Quail Gardens Drive site isn’t the right fit. Who knows? I suspect after months and months of pointless deliberation, council will vote to build on the site, much to the chagrin of local gardeners.
Eric Murtaugh likes digging in the dirt. Drop him a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.