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Dorinda Moore (left) and Christine Bevilacque walk through the Calavera Schoolhouse Community Garden. Photo by Ellen Wright
Dorinda Moore (left) and Christine Bevilacque walk through the Calavera Schoolhouse Community Garden. Photo by Ellen Wright
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Community gardens are ‘microcosm of the community’

CARLSBAD—The Calavera Schoolhouse Community Garden has been open for five months and already it has a waiting list of more than 100 eager gardeners wanting to get growing.

According to Christine Bevilacque, vice president of communications at the Carlsbad Community Garden Collaborations, the lengthy waiting list shows a need in the city for gardens.

“People have said time and time again that they want a community garden. It’s very high ranking on the list of what people want,” said Bevilacque.

The city is updating its Village and Barrio Master Plan along with three parks, Pine Avenue, Aviara and Poinsettia Community Parks. A needs assessment survey was done a year ago to find out what residents want in the city.

Community gardens ranked fourth on the type of facilities residents wanted after botanical gardens and outdoor swimming pools (the survey was done before the pool at Aviara was complete).

Family picnic areas ranked number one among desired facilities.

Patrice Smerdu, garden spokesperson, said more community gardens are in line with the city’s goal of creating spaces that are used by multiple generations and said the Smerdu Community Garden, located near City Hall, has been a positive example.

“It’s really a microcosm of the community,” said Smerdu.

All types of gardeners have plots in the community gardens, from retirees to young families, she said. School children also visit the garden during field trips to learn about the origins of produce.

Almost 2,000 third graders visited the Smerdu Garden over the last three years, according to Smerdu.

Girl Scouts have been working towards getting silver badges by composting at the Calavera Schoolhouse Garden and a local Boy Scout Troop helped with signs for the orchard.

Each gardener pays $120 a year for a plot and must actively keep it up. Everything grown must be organic.

People who violate the rules risk losing their plot, but Dorinda Moore, garden spokesperson for Calavera Community Garden, said it’s very unlikely someone would lose their plot, because they’ve waited so long for it and they likely don’t want to lose it.

Another reason the waiting list at the gardens is so long is because there is a really low rate of turnover, according to Smerdu.

The Calavera Garden has 27 plots and the Smerdu Garden has 52.

The drought hasn’t had much effect on the garden yet because a lot of people have their gardens on battery-powered drip irrigation systems, which conserve water. Smerdu said this year’s water usage is down 21 percent compared to last year.

She credits educational courses on gardening and the use of water meters in the soil. Gardeners’ annual fees pay for the water but more funding is needed to keep the gardens running.

Grants from The Carlsbad Charitable Foundation, Jenny Craig and Point Loma Credit Union help with the funding.

The contributions helped raise the awareness of the gardens, said Smerdu.

“The value of a community garden is often not as easily explained,” she said, “Without Jenny Craig I don’t think we’d have a second garden.”

The funds allowed the collaboration to host a seed swap and a few open houses, which welcomed the community.