Tom Butt
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  Richmonders Eating Fresh and Beautifying the Community
July 16, 2017

Yesterday, we visited ten Richmond gardens, distributed in all parts of the city, each unique. The purpose of the contest was to highlight what individuals can do themselves to promote healthy eating and make Richmond a more attractive community. After assembling at the Plunge, the judges fanned out across the city for an afternoon of garden scoring.

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The first surprise was that not all garden were edible gardens, or at least not predominantly edible. We started with a modest but professionally designed and carefully tended garden in the small strip between the home of Janet Ferraro and the street at Brickyard Cove.

Our second stop in the Santa Fe neighborhood was also modest, but we were all impressed by the enthusiasm of Daniel Mills and neighbors who were turning a bare adobe side yard into a producing vegetable garden with tomatoes, corn, cucumbers and the ubiquitous perennial purple tree collard, Richmond’s official green.

The Abrosch garden in the Richmond Annex was all in the front and side yards and was all cactus and succulents, many in full bloom, scoring high for sustainability because the only water it twice a year, at most. They do, however, use the prickly pear flowers to flavor margaritas, barely qualifying it as “edible.” They did have some grapes and fruit trees in the back yard.

The garden of Carmen Erasmus, a landscape architect, was clearly the work of a professional. The front yard was a melange of drought tolerant perennials cascading down to the street, while the back yard featured a patio and deck with fruit trees, a hammock and shady sitting areas.

The Trask Garden in Richmond Heights also consumed the entire front and back yards, with drought tolerant color in the front and a patio bordered by vegetables and fruit in the back

The blue-ribbon winner was a repeat from last year’s contest, the Horvath garden in the North and East. The Horvath’s are the Golden State Warriors of urban gardeners, with their plot packed full of every imaginable vegetable and fruit, with chickens and bees to boot. The took heed of my admonition that the judges can be bribed and served us with honey-sweetened lemonade and fresh peach cobbler. They didn’t have to – they were already a shoo-in.

Although they were not officially contestants, we stopped for a few minutes in the nearby garden of Anni Jenson and Carol Manahan, always an inspiration. The have farmed the front and side yards, parking strips and back yard.

Moving over to Belding Woods, we toured the garden of Angelica Godinez, who is just beginning to expand a backyard orchard planted by her father into a complete garden. We were impressed by her enthusiasm and look forward to a big expansion next year. She got extra points from offering drink from a jug of cold Benoit Casper beer.

Not far away was the back yard garden of Cianna Walker, a joint project with friends and neighbors focusing mainly on vegetables.

A unique treat was the garden of Lizbeth Lubin, whose home abuts the Richmond Greenway. She has transformed a strip about 100 feet long between her home and the Greenway asphalt trail, showcasing what every Greenway-fronting property owner should be doing.

A final treat was the garden of Marie Kochaver at Atchison Village, which included both front and back yards with both vegetables and fruit. Marie is a grafter and has successfully grafted multiple fruit varieties onto single trees.

All contestants were awarded prized that included gift certificates at local garden supply stores, gardening tools and plants, along with free tickets to the Soil not Oil Conference in Richmond September 7 through 9.

In addition to those who chose to be contestants, we could not help but notice so many people in Richmond who have ditched their lawns and turned their front yards into beautiful gardens, many including the parking strips. It was truly inspiring.

Enter your garden in next year’s contest!

At the same time, we could not help but notice others who have left their trash on street corners or parked their vehicles to block public sidewalks. We still have some work to do.