Tucked away amid sprawling lawns, a lily-pad-bedecked moat and the scattered shadows of trees in Juilliard Park, Alan Bartl and Andrea Pellicani’s community garden twinkles modestly in the sunlight. Its first seedlings popped up this May, and now the garden looks healthy and young, with bees zooming happily among plants. But this little plot of land isn’t the extraordinary couple’s only responsibility.
Until now, the city of Santa Rosa would periodically spray the pesticide Roundup throughout Juilliard Park. Living literally across the street, the couple was concerned about their own health, as well as that of other residents and park-goers. “The city has a huge amount of acreage to take care of,” Pellicani says, “and they don’t have time to convert to alternative methods.”
The couple petitioned, asking the city to end the spraying, and the city agreed to stop as long as Bartl and Pellicani committed to weeding and mulching parts of the park on a regular basis. In a truly remarkable move, the city also gave them permission to set up a small garden plot, providing them with tools, water, soil and irrigation supplies. “They were really supportive,” Bartl says. Juilliard Park is now the first no-spray sustainable park in Santa Rosa.
Currently, about five people have their own plots in the garden, and about 10 people volunteer in the park on a regular basis. A 14-by-14-square-foot space costs $20 a year plus a commitment to put in two to three hours a month of volunteer work. Bartl and Pellicani, who call their group of gardeners and volunteers “Friends of Juilliard Park,” point out the different plants rising triumphantly from the soil; pineapple sage, potatoes, tomatoes, melon, mint, zucchini, pepper and cucumbers are just a few of the crops already flourishing.
The only objections to Bartl and Pellicani’s labors so far have been neighbors complaining about weeds in the park. Believe it or not, they want the spray. “They want it sterile,” Pellicani says. But in spite of these protests, Friends of Juilliard Park plans to expand the garden, introduce native plants and bring more people into the gardening community. “We want,” Bartl says, “to take back the park.”
Juilliard Park, 227 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa. 707.525.8673.
A number of community gardens are also breaking ground across the North Bay. Stop by any of them to indulge your green thumb or engage in some communal eco-friendly activity.
Harvest for the Hungry Garden relies exclusively on volunteer labor, delivering hundreds of pounds of organically grown produce each week to several programs. The garden consists of 28 raised beds of organic produce, all watered with drip irrigation. 1717 Yulupa Ave., Santa Rosa. 707.566.7937.
Healdsburg Community Garden features elevated beds for handicapped individuals, courses and demonstrations, a compost area, storage shed for tools and other equipment, community bulletin board and 30 plots, each measuring 25-by-30 inches. A garden plot costs $50 per year. Badger Park off Heron Drive, Healdsburg. 707.431.3301.
Larkspur Community Garden invites the public to learn about mulching and watering, discover new gardening techniques, share harvests and build community in an ongoing year-round opportunity. 400 Magnolia Ave., Larkspur. 415.927.6746.
Mill Valley Community Garden produces organic vegetables and plants, and supplies food for the local farmers/gardeners market. Families and individuals are invited to get a plot. 180 Camino Alto, Mill Valley. 415.383.1370.
Napa Nest Giving Garden will grow herbs, vegetables and flowers for those in need and anyone who contributes to the garden’s development. The space features a cool cactus garden, a picnic area and a community veggie patch. 1019 Atlas Peak Road, Napa. 707.255.7484.
Occidental Arts and Ecology Center hosts “Volunteer Wednesdays” in which members of the public are invited to drop by between 10am and 5pm to help in the garden. A vegetarian lunch is served at 12:30pm. Courses, tours and other programs are also offered. 15290 Coleman Valley Road, Occidental. 707.874.1557, ext. 201.
Sonoma Garden Park provides access to land for agriculture, education about sustainable agriculture and landscaping, local food security and community interaction. Volunteer days are Wednesday and Friday from 4pm to 6pm and Saturdays from 10am to 1pm. 19990 Seventh St. E., Sonoma. 707.996.0712, ext. 120.
Sunflower Urban Community Garden hosts programs that provide training, education, food products and even employment to attending youth and families. Corner of Seventh and A streets, Santa Rosa. 707.543.3457.
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