On July 17 the sun will rise at 5:54 AM in Northeast Los Angeles, the start of a 14 hour and 10 minute day. Solar noon, or day's midpoint, is traditionally a good time to take a break from the hot sun. Coincidentally, the Altadena Community Garden opens its gates at 1 PM -- solar noon -- for its annual summer BBQ. Attendance is expected to rocket past last year's 400 members and visitors on hand to celebrate the numerous achievements and activities in the garden. Many will have pre-purchased tickets, $7 in advance, $8 at the door, required to "get you a plate," as forebears have wisely advised generations at family and community gatherings.
The public is invited to "get you a plate," relax in the garden, and learn something, too. Delicious foods handmade from garden fresh fruits and vegetables will be served, along with plenty of fresh lemonade and sun tea to go with smoking hot barbequed meats, lovingly cooked by expert chef-gardeners. The BBQ, from 1 to 6 PM, will feature a full calendar of gardening workshops, blood pressure screenings courtesy of a registered nurse from Huntington Memorial Hospital, community safety and alert information, plus representatives from Lincoln Avenue Water District, Huntington Botanical Garden, the University of California Extension Master Gardeners, LA County Sheriff's Department, and local elected representatives.
The three and a half acre corner of Lincoln Avenue and Palm Street holds 64 plots for over 108 gardeners and associate gardeners. All fully subscribed gardeners pay $73 in annual dues. All are encouraged to attend quarterly general membership meetings where votes are cast for new tools, mulch, fertilizer, and governing officers. Free seed packets are available to members at meetings to encourage attendance, and ACG President Silvera Grant always brings food, sandwiches or pastries or other baked goods. As though the breaking of bread together heightens the awareness that this is a community, a family of sorts, of folks who love their gardens. The meetings often begin with a voluntary moment of silence in remembrance of some event or person or milestone, such as the passing of a beloved fellow gardener.
Most gardeners plant year round, others rely on summer for consistent weather for growing ease. Many rely on old school gardening techniques taught by parents and grandparents, while others espouse newly fashionable organic, eco-friendly practices. Everyone agrees that it's not cool to pinch anything from your neighbor's plot. Those caught "borrowing" a tomato or beet will be ejected from the gardening community.
The Garden was formed in 1974 by a group of West Altadena residents who wanted to garden with neighbors. The informal group chose an undeveloped plot of land to cultivate local, healthful fruits and vegetables. Soon the County of Los Angeles decided to build an equestrian ring at the area now known as Loma Alta Park, disrupting the neighborhood project. Officials recognized the value of the garden and worked with residents to find a suitable and permanent location for the ad-hoc community garden project. All agreed to move down the block to the vacant Mt. Lowe corner.
The Community Garden members developed bylaws, installed fruit trees, herbs, roses, native plants and succulents in communal areas. ACG continues to work with the County to maintain the garden's infrastructure and amenities. For members' shared use are picnic areas, a shaded deck, tool sheds, and walkways. Membership dues and volunteers provide hand tools, mulch, organic fertilizer and water from the Lincoln Avenue Water District. Additions this year are individual water spigots at each plot, new bulletin boards at the big shed, and new recycling signs for the bottle and cans program which one member initiated last year.
As with many LA County community gardens, there is a waiting list, possibly to two years. Applications are available at the garden on an unscheduled basis, but a better bet is to attend a general membership meeting. These are held quarterly at the Loma Alta Park gym. Further information, is available at the Altadena Community Garden website: http://altadenacommunitygarden.com. Or, Leave a note under the door of the big tool shed for President Silvera Grant.