The Eagle Rockdale Community Garden and Art Park hosted its seventh annual plant sale fundraiser during the weekend of March 30. According to Suzie Chamberlain, co-manager of the community garden, this event is its chief fundraiser. The park’s management uses the profit from the event to cover the expenses of maintaining the garden, as well as to support other community gardens, according to co-manager Martin Kelly. Chamberlain said that Eagle Rockdale Garden is sustained through dues and added that through this fundraiser, the garden is able to obtain more tools and resources, throw its summer solstice party and have a cushion in case of emergency.
According to Chamberlain, the community garden incorporates new plants for its sale every year.
“The first year we grew most of the plants in our backyard and we had a smaller selection of plants,” Chamberlain said. “Then each year we added more vegetables, more variety. So far it has been a success.”
Chamberlain said that one of the new plants that the garden is selling this year is Marglobe tomatoes. According to Gina Scarnati, a member of the community for six years, this year the offerings included nearly twenty different varieties of tomatoes. Scarnati also said that the garden had peppers, cucumbers and watermelon among its plants.
According to Chamberlain, the garden donates what it does not sell at the plant sale to EnrichLA, an organization that helps Los Angeles schools build their own gardens and get students involved with gardening. Kelly stated that through this fundraiser Eagle Rockdale Garden is also able to help other community gardens in the Los Angeles area.
“We also have other community gardens that we support, monetarily, through money that is made from this sale,” Kelly said. “There is gonna be some gardens that need a little bit more help than we do, so we do donations.”
According to Chamberlain, although the produce from the garden is not certified organic by the Food and Drug Administration, Eagle Rockdale Garden does practice organic gardening.
“We don’t use any chemical fertilizers. We don’t use any chemical insecticide. We try to have a natural approach to how we garden, so that means that we’re looking for compatibility with plants. Some attract pollinators, others provide shade for some of the plants,” Chamberlain said.
Instead of using chemicals, the gardeners utilize natural oils that keep insects off the plants, such as neem oil, according to Kelly.
Scarnati spoke on how gardening itself is a sustainable practice.
“When you grow your own salad greens or herbs or tomatoes, you use less water than most agricultural endeavors and also you lower your carbon footprint by not having to have what you are growing trucked and packaged to a big facility,” Scarnati said. “There’s a lot of waste.”
Scarnati also said that the garden tries to control the number of invasive species. Chamberlain said that this is a long-term plan for the garden that management hopes to develop further. Scarnati described the process and benefits of contributing native plants to the garden.
“We remove by hand — we don’t use pesticides — poison oak and other invasive species. We put down native buckwheat, poppies, species such as that. That’s beneficial to native pollinators, which of course have a hard time, and often native insects, which can compete with the invasive ones. By having native plants around, we help to create a friendly environment as well,” Scarnati said.
Chamberlain said the gardeners do not grow ornamental plants, such as flowers. According to Chamberlain, the focus of the garden is to contribute to the community as a source of food, although it is not a primary source of food. Kelly said that he got involved with the garden because he enjoys eating what he grows.
“I really enjoy growing things to eat. It starts with tomatoes but then you find out that you can grow lettuce and all the greens for the winter time, which is so good. We manage to take our salads from this garden every day for four months,” Kelly said. “For me, it also saves a lot of money. You buy a bag of salad for three dollars and you can eat the whole thing in a night or you can come to the garden and get a great deal.”
Chamberlain said it’s important for people, especially children, to come support community gardens because it allows them to see how plants grow. Scarnati said the garden introduces children to nature and healthy eating.