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The Birth of a Community Garden

1210 E. Virginia Ave
behind Maricopa County Adult Probation office (see map at bottom of page)

Garden SignThe Coronado Community Garden was the idea of a few neighbors to do something constructive with a plot of land that wasn't being used and to bring the neighbors together to get to know each other.

It is located in the Coronado Historic Neighborhood in Phoenix, AZ on the property used by the Maricopa County Probation Office which is in an old home in the neighborhood. Several years ago there was a community garden there that was lovingly built by the Montoya's and many volunteers. However, when the Montoya's moved away from the neighborhood, the garden went fallow, and filled with bermuda grass and weeds for several years.

In Fall of 2008 a group of neighbors met at the garden to discuss how to structure it and get it started. They took the philosophy of "build it and they will come" and created a demonstration garden in the front yard and revitalized two smaller gardens in the backyard that had a few plants growing in them.

Garden Group This small group of gardeners met monthly over the fall and winter to tend, maintain and harvest from these beds. They continued to promote it to the neighbors, but had few people who wanted their own plot. Many people wanted to learn how to garden so they could apply this new skill back home in their own gardens. Several gardening classes were held for the volunteers and community to teach composting, soil preparation and garden planting. A seed and plant exchange was held that spring.

They also began to form relationships with other groups and businesses to support the garden:

  • The Phoenix Permaculture Guild held a site analysis workshop to assess the elements of permaculture that existed or could be created to support a more self-sustaining garden. The result of this class led to identifying ideal garden bed placement and the future addition of fruit trees and native trees for shade and food. They have held additional hands-on classes in the garden including a mulch layered garden class. They also donated an apple, peach and fig tree for the front yard winter 2009.
  • Southwest Gardener, a retail garden supply store, was approached to donate vegetable and herb seed at the end of the season and has been the source for Botanical Interests seeds since Fall 2008.
  • Maggie Keane, an artist and neighbor, was asked to design and paint the garden sign on an old metal sign from the neighborhood. That sign hangs on the front porch proudly identifying the garden.(see top of page)
  • Maggie also drops off the left over green waste from a local sandwich shop, Ladybug Sandwiches, several times a week on her way home from the lunch hour. This gets added to the compost piles that are used to build healthy soil.
  • Joe Murphy, Murphy's Irish Service, a local landscaper, drops off bags of grass and leaves for the compost pile and helps out with more technical maintenance when needed.
  • A local Roots & Shoots organizations donated a mesquite tree and helped plant it with their home-school kids.
  • Once a month the probationers do community service in the neighborhood which includes cleaning up weeds in the garden, pruning trees in easements along with the gardeners and painting out graffiti.
  • Neighbors donate scrap wood and broken concrete (urbanite) to edge the garden beds and reuse this items that may have ended up in a landfill.
  • Neighbors donate plants from their yards to help beautify the property. Aloes, agaves, cacti, lantana, a creosote bush and even a mesquite tree have found a new home in the front yard

Lasagna Garden Although the garden is used primarily as a demonstration and teaching garden, the community participates in group planting, maintenance and harvesting on a regular basis. The neighborhood association helps out with a small financial contribution that is enhanced with fees from workshops.

There are now a few personally maintained plots and a proposed herb garden that will provide herbs to neighborhood restaurants to offset garden maintenance expenses. A fall 2010 pumpkin fest is planned using the pumpkins planted this summer.

Future plans for the garden include engaging the churches located on Virginia, Mothers Against Gangs, North High School and other local social service agencies as well as using the garden space to host neighborhood gatherings and girl scout troops.

May Dig This may not look like a typical community garden of years past with rented plots but it is making a difference in this neighborhood. People have developed deeper and new relationship because of working shoulder to shoulder in the garden, sharing tips and breaking a sweat together!

The contact for the Coronado Community Garden is Doreen Pollack Doreen Pollack or 623-217-6038

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