SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A free garden near Interstate 15 on El Cajon Boulevard is celebrating two months of growth, both in the soil and the community.
Volunteers with Eat San Diego planted the garden at the end of July. Since then, fruit trees, vegetables and herbs have grown so well that they had to expand.
"We started off with the idea of having one volunteer take care of one planter, and now we have at least five volunteers for every plant," said Devon Lantry, who helps manage the garden for Eat San Diego.
The garden is free for anyone who wants to come by and pick some of the food out of it. Lantry said having that kind of shared space can help a neighborhood become a safer, more welcoming place.
"People feel an ownership, because they take this food, they eat it, they're also sharing it with their neighbors, they can talk about what's new in the garden this week," he said. "And you meet people and talk to people that you would pass on the street everyday but never interact it."
The garden cost around $1,000 to set up initially. Money came from donations and grants, and now Lantry said they have so many donations they have to turn away some plants.
Right now, there are 21 different kinds of food in the garden, ranging from small tomatoes to a passion fruit vine. Lantry picked the plants to help represent the diversity of the community around it. So, next to the Okinawan spinich, you can also find Middle Eastern mint.
And people are using the garden almost daily.
"I'll see people grab a sandwich nearby, and then come down here and pick some leafy greens and tomatoes to put on their sandwich," said Lantry.
It's gone so well that Eat San Diego has expanded the program around the city. There are now 7 in San Diego:
- Sidewalk garden supported by Mixte Communications
- Sidewalk garden supported by Newbreak Church
- Bus stop garden supported by the Point Loma Association
- Free food park supported by the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association
- Sidewalk garden bench supported by Folk Arts Rare Records
- Bus stop garden supported by Riverfront Apartments
- Sidewalk garden by the Pacific Beach boardwalk, supported by neighbors
Lantry thinks it can be the start of a major change across the city, turning San Diego into the Free Food capital of the US.
"With this being cost neutral to plant vegetables instead of flowers, berries instead of bushes, fruit trees instead of palm trees, we think the City of San Diego should require a certain amount of green space to be edible," he said.