Open House introduces community garden to public

An open house was held Saturday to help bring awareness to St. Mary’s in the Valley Episcopal Church’s presentation of Labyrinth: A Garden for Ramona.

Set on an acre of land beside the church at 12th Street and San Vicente Road, the garden will be divided into approximately 100 plots for people to share in the enjoyment of gardening, the rewards of fresh fruit and vegetables, and a sense of community as they get to know their fellow Ramonans. Theresa Tynan, who is heading the project, provided an explanation of what to expect.

The people behind Labyrinth suggest a donation of $65 to cover the costs of irrigation. The church owns the property being used for the garden, a nonprofit cause

Typically, donors will either get a plot to garden and cultivate themselves, or will sponsor a plot for someone in need to take care of. The beneficiaries of a sponsorship are not required to share the crops with the donor, but an arrangement can be made. If a plot has a surplus of produce, the church encourages people to donate to charity organizations, both to feed the hungry and to see that food is not wasted. Sponsorship is unlimited, and qualifies as a tax write-off.

There are some minor restrictions. No one can have more than two plots to themselves. Illegal plants are off-limits, as are plants over six feet tall, to avoid shading a neighbor’s plants. Pesticides are not allowed. There is no age limit to tending to a plot, but one has to be 18 to sign a contract.

The first plot to be worked on belongs to Master Gardener Carin Bunney, who was at the open house to help instruct people unfamiliar with the finer points of gardening. While she provided tips on all aspects of maintaining a garden, her advice on irrigation proved to have the most impact, as several people cited that as something important they learned.

Bunney showed a diagram that outlined a sample plot, indicating that many crops could fit in what might be considered a small space.  When asked about how to control pests with an organic garden, Bunney said, “The wire fence will keep the rabbits out. As for the ground squirrels, they can dig under, so I don’t know. Snails, insects ... I think it will have to be up to the individuals. The community could share ideas on how to deal with pests.”

Father Herbert Barker, the pastor of St. Mary’s in the Valley, complimented the project.

“It’s a great way to get people involved, to connect with others, and to create their own sense of community,” he said. “It is important to get to know people and share ideas, so the bonds developed at the garden can translate over to other aspects of life.”

“The community is most important,” added church worker Dawn Kezer.

Barker also said that he considered the presence of a master gardener to be a big help. He and Kezer said they had little to no experience in gardening, though Kezer said her mother and husband did. Barker said he was sponsoring a plot, but would not be working on it. Still, having a professional like Carin Bunney available would make things easier for newcomers wishing to tend to a plot.

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