Loomis garden offers spot for community to sow and grow

By: Gloria Young Home & Garden
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Sharing expertise and the vegetables of their labors — it’s all part of the community garden experience. And members of Sierra Christian Church in Loomis are expanding on that theme. “We had a small community garden at our site in 2009 with six plots, and then in 2010 it grew to 12 plots,” church member and gardener Suzanne Awalt said. The church subsequently added a labyrinth and meditation garden. Now the garden has been relocated to a larger space. “The relocation afforded the opportunity for us to greatly expand the garden,” Awalt said. “We have 17 raised beds and eight in-ground pots. It’s much more developed and dedicated to the community garden.” During a workday in October, volunteers built the boxes for the raised beds and installed an in-ground water system. Awalt is among those looking forward to growing season. “I’m not a longtime gardener,” she said. “A friend who’s an avid gardener asked if I’d be willing to share a plot. Now we’re sharing two boxes. I’m learning a lot, meeting other gardeners and growing my own food. I’m a social worker by training so I love the social aspect of it — bringing people together and contributing to food security. Gardening is good for your health and beautifies the environment.” She’s made the most of the space. “We’ve grown tomatoes — they are high on the list,” she said. “We’ve done well with Kentucky Wonder beans, eggplant, squash, pumpkin and cucumbers.” Flowers are an important addition, too. “We like to add sunflowers and bee-balm. We like to attract bees, hummingbirds and butterflies,” she said. “This year we’ll probably toss in a few other things as well as herbs, and grow plants that are good companions — tomato and basil, cucumber and dill.” Another aspect of the garden is giving back. “For now, we have set aside four of the in-ground beds for volunteers to plant for the Placer Food Bank,” Amy Allen, Sacramento State University senior who is planning a grand opening festival for the garden, said in an e-mail. Allen and fellow student Lauren Robinson are coordinating the festival for a programming class as part of their recreation, parks and tourism major. They’re putting together a day of booths, workshops, music and food for the festival, which will be held Saturday, April 14. “Our goal was to involve community members and vendors that have an interest in community gardens,” Allen said. Placer Nature Center will have a booth, as will an alpaca farm. There will be a composting workshop from 11 a.m. to noon, presented by Kevin Marini, master gardener program adviser with the UC Cooperative Extension. A representative from the Sacramento Tree Foundation will lead the planting of five donated trees — two redwoods, a nectarine, a pear and a tangerine. Music will be provided by the Bell Boys Band, performing traditional rock and roll, hip and funk, Allen said. Bill Maynard, in charge of community gardens with the Sacramento Recreation and Parks Division, has donated 300 seed packets. “He’ll be planting those in the raised beds set aside for the food bank,” Allen said. The garden plots are available on a rental basis to the community. Cost is $30 per year for a 4-foot-by-16-foot space. “It is a signed agreement and cash payment,” she said. “It includes water and access to the utility shed to store your own hoses, garden tools and seeds.” The focus is on organic, “so we’re discouraging any use of synthetic herbicides, pesticides and fertilizer,” Awalt said. “People don’t have to be gardeners (to rent a plot),” she said. “They can be wanting to learn. So many gardeners are out there and willing to share their knowledge.” ---------- Community Gardens Festival What: Grand opening When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, April 14 Where: Sierra Christian?Church, 5645 Rocklin?Road, Loomis