An eggplant Moraga, California, is a pleasant and prosperous small town northeast of San Francisco. As is the case with most of the East Bay area, plants and trees and flowers abound. People tend their gardens year-round; even small front lawns often include decorative plants and small trees.
In this suburban setting, kitchen gardens are not so apparent. Thus, it was a delightful surprise to find the Moraga Gardens Farm tucked away on an undistinguished corner. We found the manager who gave us a tour of this beautiful garden and its wealth of fruits, vegetables and flowers.
A wealth of lettuce The garden has been in existence for several decades, ever since his family started tending it. Gradually, others learned about it and volunteered their time and skills, until now it is a permanent group. Unlike most community gardens in which each family tends its own plot, here everybody contributes to the entire garden by watering, weeding, harvesting. As a result, the planting beds are large enough to produce enough crops so that all can share.
Newly harvested garlic The community includes people from many countries and cultures, who bring their knowledge of the plants from their countries of origin. Thus, the garden contains not only summer squash and zucchinis, but also Korean squashes. Eggplants include the round American eggplant as wells the longer Japanese eggplant. There are borage and amaranth, perhaps a dozen kinds of lettuce. We admired the "garlic tree" with its load of young garlic bulbs drying on a lower branch.
The plants are set in raised beds which are covered with straw to preserve moisture and discourage insects and weeds. Pests are generally not a problem because the naturally healthy and strong plants can fight off any damage. Now at midsummer the garden is a feast of all shades of green, with here and there the purples and reds and yellows of eggplant, tomatoes and squash peeking out from under the large leaves, but after the final harvest the remaining plants will be tilled into the soil, which will be planted with nitrogen-fixing legumes for the winter.
The gardener and the garden goddess The borders of the garden are lined with fruit trees -- several varieties of peaches, plums, nectarines. Additional trees are planned.
What happens to the crops? Much is sold to some of the most prestigious East Bay restaurants and grocery stores, the volunteers have regular harvest parties to share the bounty, and the remainder is given to local food banks.
The generous size of the garden means that enough of each crop is sold to cover expenses, such as rent, seeds, fertilizer and equipment, with plenty left over for all to share. This is truly a Community Garden.