GARDEN GROVE – Adrian Danila squats, bringing himself closer to the tilled earth, plucking weeds and digging two holes with a trowel.
BY CHRIS HAIRE / STAFF WRITER
Published: May 7, 2014 Updated: 9:25 a.m.
Danila, a 42-year-old Garden Grove resident, has a fondness for gardening – an affection steeped in the nostalgia for his native Romania, where homes rest on large plots that allow families to cultivate their own crops: strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, a Romanian bean known as the Gold of Bacau.
When Danila first moved to the United States 10 years ago, sponsored by his mother to “have a better life,” he lived first in Anaheim, the densely built tourist center of Orange County. Then, about five years ago, he moved to Garden Grove, also one of the county’s most populated cities.
Danila, who works for a small aerospace company that often contracts with Boeing, said he was left wanting for a relaxing, healthy, natural hobby after spending much of his time in a “well-paying but boring” job amid the urban sprawl of north Orange County.
Then, in 2009, while on a five-mile walk, he saw a new sign on Garden Grove Boulevard that read, “Community Garden.”
“I saw it and I knew I had to get a plot,” he said.
So, after applying to the city and spending a year on the waiting list, he finally reserved a 10-by-10-foot space in the pristine oasis in a Garden Grove neighborhood of single-family homes near City Hall.
The city-owned community garden, now in its fifth year, has been an escape from urban life for many residents – a place where they can go either in the dew-soaked hours before work or the twilight hours after jobs, a respite from the daily grind and a way to have healthier and happier lives.
Garden Grove’s mini-farm is part of a growing national trend that has seen, in the wake of the economic recession and an obesity epidemic, community gardens sprouting up everywhere from New York to Irvine. The nonprofit American Community Gardening Association alone works with more than 10,000 gardens. Community gardens allow people to eat better food at cheaper costs than shopping at grocery stores, the organization states.
“It’s so expensive to eat organic and eat healthy,” said David Wilmes, the on-site manager for the garden, who has been involved with the facility since its germination from a parking lot. “The garden makes it easier to be healthier, improves mental health because gardening is meditative, and it helps people connect to those in the community.”
The garden, located at 11421 Garden Grove Blvd., has about 40 plots, which cost $45 per year to rent. The garden is not a moneymaker for the city, Wilmes said. Most of the rental fees go toward maintaining the garden and equipment, as well as supplementing the water costs paid by the city. Although there is a code of conduct, gardeners, for the most part, are allowed to cultivate what they choose.
On a recent Monday near dusk, with a nippy breeze and the sun’s rays filtering through gray clouds, Huy Nguyen transplanted his crop of strawberries into a raised planter above his plot. His girlfriend, Thien Thanh Le, pulled weeds in an adjacent plot.
Nguyen, 30, who has lived in Garden Grove since 1995, said he used to regularly drive down Garden Grove Boulevard on his way to visit Le’s house every day for the past year – looking out his driver’s-side window, wishing he could reserve a plot. But, Nguyen said, he lacked the resolve and initiative to apply.
Finally, Le made the call. They began planting in March – corn, strawberries, lettuce and okra, among other crops.
“Gardening gives you such a good feeling,” Nguyen said. “Watching your crops grow gives you a sense of accomplishment, and I’m so excited to taste everything. And also, it’s nice have something like this to share with (Le).”
Garden Grove Community Garden
2,000: Ladybugs released last summer to kill aphids
85%: Percent of people who only grow summer crops
12: Hours per year, broken into six hours every six months, that those with plots are required to help during Saturday cleanup days
6: Years the garden has been open
Garden Grove Community Garden Rules
• No drugs, tobacco and alcohol allowed.
• No power tools before 8 a.m.
• Children and visitors must be supervised at all times.
• Gardeners cannot do anything that interferes with the activities of their neighboring gardeners, including playing loud music or having inappropriate conversations.
• Gardeners must diligently care for their plots and keep them clean of weeds and can only use them for cultivating crops.
• No pets allowed.
• Gates are to be closed at all times.
• Shade structures may not be more than 3-feet tall or take up more than 75 percent of a single plot.
• Trellises and plant supports cannot be taller than 8 feet.
• No permanent structures allowed.
• Proposed signage must be approved by the garden’s coordinators and cannot be larger than 3-by-5 inches.
• Do not plant sprawling crops or tall ones that might interfere with other plots.
• No trees allowed.
• No ponds allowed.
• Gardeners cannot use pesticides or herbicides.
• Diseased plants must be removed immediately.
• Ensure water is turned off after use and do not relocate, alter or tap into the water supply.
• Tools in the tool shed are not to be taken out of the garden for personal use.
• Personal items must be stored in the smaller boxes next to the shed.
• Household and office furniture are prohibited.
Renting a plot
The Garden Grove Community Garden is located at 11421 Garden Grove Blvd. The cost is $45 a year.
For more information on how to reserve a plot, go to the Community Services section of the City of Garden Grove website, or call 714-741-5360.
Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To read this at the source, go to the Orange County Register.