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Landscape designer Chris Bany has organized a collection program for home gardeners to donate excess vegetables and fruit. Drop-off is 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. each Sunday at the Village Rock Shop in Carlsbad. Photo by Xenia Mathieu
ColumnsJano's Garden

The joy of ‘paying it forward’

Someone left me a gift last week — quite anonymously and unexpected.

Two huge, dried flower pods the size of a small baby’s head were left on the work table at the Pine Street Community Garden in Carlsbad.

This is where I teach a gardening class for Carlsbad seniors and grow everything from tomatoes to zucchini, herbs and flowers, in a large 4-by-16-foot raised bed.


Upon further investigation, I found out that the flowers are Russian Mammoth Sunflower and are destined to reach 7 feet tall.

I have written about the art of seed saving in previous articles, but sunflowers are by far the easiest flower to save.

Simply remove them from the seed head, scrape off the chaff or dirt on top of the pod and dry out for a week or so.

After one week, they will be ready to plant, and you too can have a sunflower garden that looms over all the rest.

And don’t forget to “pay it forward” to others by distributing your seeds to friends.


In a similar fashion, one of Carlsbad’s local landscape designers, Chris Bany, has embarked upon a volunteer food pantry project.

He and store owner Xenia Matheiu have set up a Donation Station at the Village Rock Shop on State Street in Carlsbad.

Each Sunday, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., a large green bin is stationed at the entrance of the shop, where home gardeners can drop off vegetables and fruit to distributed to the food pantry at the Community Resource Center (CRC) in Encinitas.

According to Bany: “The Donation Station is a part of the efforts started by Mim Michelove, founder of Heathy Day Partners in Encinitas.

“Our goal is to encourage local gardeners to share in the bounty of their home-grown produce and distribute that produce to local residents who are in need of additional food that their budget does not allow.

“We also hope that the recipients of the food donations will have an opportunity to grow their own food someday, and we will be demonstrating easy container garden techniques at the Rock Shop as well.

“Visit us on Sundays in Carlsbad, and we will show you how!”


Another enjoyable activity that I have recently been introduced to is the fairly new hobby of painted rocks.

You may have seen such rocks in homeowners’ gardens, but locals are secretly spreading joy to people who are walking in parks or on the beach and find a brightly painted rock hidden under a tree or beach grass.

According to a fellow rock painter who explains the process on her website (

“I have found that painting and hiding rocks is a way to spread a little happiness to my neighbors. I started painting rocks with uplifting quotes and characters to give people something to look at during the pandemic.

“Sure, in the grand scheme of things, finding a rock isn’t going to solve the world’s problems, but it definitely brings joy to those who find them!”

To learn more about the art of rock painting and spreading joy with a simple rock visit the Oceanside Painted Rocks page on Facebook.

If you or your friends have found an interesting “pay it forward” project, contact me at [email protected].

Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and horticulturist and teaches vegetable gardening at the Carlsbad Senior Center. To find out more about her classes contact her at [email protected].

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