Reaping What They've Sown: St. Andrew's breaks ground for PB Community Garden — ‘Bed boxes’ now on sale

If Pacific Beach is a fertile community with deep roots conducive to healthy growth that allow residents to blossom and bear fruit, then the new community garden at St. Andrew’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church will be a perfect fit.

Organized and operated by the local non-profit Beautiful PB, the community garden will give the many apartment and condo dwellers in PB with no access to open land an opportunity to exercise their green thumbs and produce just about any blooming thing. While the goal is to instill environmentally friendly practices among would-be gardeners, the benefits will be greater than merely bringing home-grown produce straight to the table.

“Every community should have a way to grow food,” said Greta Aiken, acting treasurer for Beautiful PB Garden. “We’re so far detached from our food source. This is an opportunity to learn to garden, to learn about sustainability, but also to get to know your neighbors who get involved.”

The garden plot measures about 20 feet by 50 feet and is located on the Thomas Avenue side between the church and its preschool, and across the street from the San Diego Public Library’s Taylor branch.

A joint venture between St. Andrew’s and Beautiful PB, the seed of the community garden was planted almost three years ago, when the church began looking at ways to positively impact the community beyond its parish, according to Gregory Jones, junior warden of St. Andrew’s vestry, the church’s governing body.

“We were assessing who we are as a congregation,” he said. “Sunday is only one day a week. So we decided, ‘Let’s go out into the community instead of waiting for the community to come to us.’ We wanted to contribute more to the community instead of just being a building on the block.”

Around the same time, the original Pacific Beach Community Garden in Crown Point was forced to close its gates at the end of 2015 after 40 years of providing arable land to planters and growers when the property was sold to an investment company. According to Aiken, that community garden’s coordinator and a volunteer at Beautiful PB at the time, Paula Ferraco, began searching for a replacement site.

“Paula looked for locations,” Aiken explained. “She started looking at the library land but couldn’t get an agreement.”

With Beautiful PB using space at St. Andrew’s for its meetings, the needs of the two groups converged, resulting in a match made in heaven. Jones noted that Father Simon Mainwaring, who had spearheaded the church’s drive for community outreach, blessed the new community garden during groundbreaking ceremonies and blessed the planting of a lemon tree at the entrance on his last day at the parish, July 18.

Beautiful PB Garden, as the new community garden will be called, will consist of 20 raised wooden bed boxes. Sizes will vary, from 3- by 4-foot boxes to 8 by 8-foot boxes.

Aiken said that all participants will have to abide by a set of bylaws that include prohibitions of pesticides, animal manure, invasive species and illegal plants, among other things.

Help, donations needed

With construction of the boxes set for September and October, Aiken noted that the project organizers are seeking donations from local businesses of the needed materials such as untreated wood, soil and compost, plumbing lines, hosing, garden tools and rain barrels to collect the huge runoff from the church’s roof. In addition, professional services donated to build and install equipment are also welcome.

Two of the planter boxes will go to St. Andrew’s, which will use the produce grown for its Tuesday night suppers to feed the hungry, Jones said. In addition, the garden will be instructive for the 65 students at the adjacent St. Andrew’s Preschool.

“Part of the curriculum is to expose the children to the wider world,” Jones said. “We’ll be able to teach how to grow things and how to be environmentally aware and how to use rainwater.”

Use of the garden boxes will require a monthly $20 fee for water and insurance, as well as a $275 initiation fee. Because the cost would be hefty for those who might benefit most from growing their own food, Aiken said Beautiful PB Garden is looking to set aside boxes for such people.

“We want to provide boxes for families in need,” she said. “It’s a cost savings on grocery bills.”

Beautiful PB Garden

What: A community garden plot open to PB residents for a fee

When: Now through October, 20 raised bed boxes are for sale

Where: St. Andrew’s by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 1050 Thomas Ave.

Cost: $20 monthly per box; $275 initiation fee

Contact: To apply for a box (or donate materials or labor), e-mail Greta.Aiken@gmail.com

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