Friendships flourish along with zucchini, squash and tomatoes
by: Barbara Sherman FUN IN THE GARDEN — With Barbara Stevens looking on in the background, Vicki Barnard finishes watering her vegetables in the King City community garden and prepares to take aim at the photographer.

Many varieties of tomato plants are growing alongside red and green peppers, artichokes, yellow squash, zucchini, kale, collard and more in raised beds on the north side of King City City Hall.

The veritable farm in the city is a real success story for the half dozen or so residents who earlier this spring took advantage of an offer from City Manager Dave Wells to provide the space if the participants would be responsible for the construction and maintenance of the beds.

City Councilor Malka Sekey first brought up the idea of a community garden at a City Council meeting in February after requests from several residents, and the project took some time and a few meetings for the details to be honed.

Plants were put in the ground in late May, and the result is a thriving garden, with some people having more than one raised bed.

"It almost didn't get off the ground," said Sekey, who despite kick-starting the project doesn't have her own plot in the garden. "We got a late start, but it is amazing what has happened in a short time. And we still have room for more raised beds in the future."

Sekey is still involved in the project but appreciates Vicki Barnard, who has her own raised beds in the garden, for taking over a leadership role in what they are calling the Community Garden Club of King City

Sekey also credits Mary Jane Gisondi for helping with the project.

"She's good about getting things started," Sekey said. "Without Mary Jane at the beginning, this wouldn't have happened. (City Councilor) Dave Newham built most of the raised beds, and he will help other people if they decide to do this next year."

Giving credit where credit is due, Barnard and fellow gardener Charlie Morgan each built their own raised beds; in addition, gardeners had to arrange for soil to be delivered and put in their raised beds before starting to plant.

Another enthusiastic gardener is Barbara Stevens, who said that part of the fun of the project is talking to people at the garden while watering or harvesting produce.

"A number of people have stopped by while we are out working here," Barnard added. "We hope to take extra vegetables to the King City Clubhouse on Thursday mornings to share with people who would like them. We have all crowded a lot of plants into our beds - it is gardening by the square foot.

"I think we are doing really well for the first year, and I think more people will want to do it next year. We may get a composter too."

Sekey agreed, noting "It's amazing how many plants you can put in a raised bed," with Barnard explaining, "The plants support each other."

Stevens said, "I have not gardened for 30 years but decided to do this. We don't have any Master Gardeners among our group, but we are willing to share our experience."

One bonus of using raised beds, which was a requirement so as not to damage an underground sprinkler system, is that by using new soil, weeds are not really a problem - not that they would have room to grow among the vegetables.

But perhaps the biggest bounty of the project is the friendships that have been formed.

"We've made good friends," Barnard said. "When I come, I can see that someone's been here that day because they've watered or harvested some vegetables. I can see that Charlie hasn't been here yet today - his plot is dry.

"There is a man across the street in the condos who has helped me, and he's been promised tomatoes.

'He said he'd keep his eye on it for tomatoes. If we know someone is out of town, we will water for them."

Barnard, who planted 10 different kinds of tomatoes, said, "I had fun picking out the different tomatoes. I bought a grafted tomato plant - I like to experiment.

'I have been garden-deprived for years. I have a flower garden but haven't had vegetables."

Pointing to a spot in a raised bed, she said. "I had Romaine lettuce here but ate it all, so now I've planted red onions in the space.

'And I planted zucchini in my flower beds because I ran out of room here."

In addition to all those tomatoes, Barnard is growing peppers, celery, green onions, green beans, four or five kinds of herbs, dry beans and carrots.

Stevens of course has tomatoes and also is growing red and green peppers, artichokes, zucchini and yellow squash.

"It looks beautiful - so full and lush," Sekey said.

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