So you want to garden. A lot of us do. Gardening is relaxing, gets you in touch with the earth, gives you delicious vegetables to eat, teaches you about plants, and has been shown to even help lower blood pressure. Talk about a win-win.

The problem, as it is all too often, is land. Most of us don’t have enough of it. If you live in an apartment or condo, you might not have any at all. If you rent, your landlord might not let you dig up the back yard for those peppers or gourds you wanted to grow. We’ve been cut out -pruned, if you will, ripped out by the root- from having the freshest of the fresh.

Fear not, prospective gardener, the Hollywood community has a solution for you. Nestled between Dixie Highway and 24th ave on Adams Street, you’ll find the Highland Gardens Neighborhood Community Garden. And if the organizers get their way, community gardens might find their way to Washington Park, Liberia, and Hollywood Gardens West. And no, I don’t know why so many neighborhoods with “Gardens” in their names didn’t already have, you know, gardens.

april14-10 Highland Gardens Community Garden initiative still growing strong in Hollywood
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PHOTO BY COURTNEY STUDIOS

So what is a community garden, and how do you join? Simply put, it’s an unused plot of land whose owner (in this case, the City of Hollywood) allows to be cultivated rather than go to waste. At this garden, each member has access to an 8 foot by 4 foot plot – more than enough for a few tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. Or sweet potatoes, pineapples, cucumbers, onions, squashes. Even okra, if you like slimy little alien pods of goo in your food. All these are being grown in the garden. Each plot costs only $2 a year, and members can work their plots during daylight hours year-round. Kids are welcome to join, too, so long as their parents sign for them.

The garden is completely organic – no chemical pesticides or fertilizers of any kind allowed. Seeing as how it’s probably not possible to bring a wheat thresher down Dixie Highway, it’s also gluten-free. And kosher. There’s no fee to water the plots, since the city is picking up that tab. Seeds and plants are on you, though.

One of the best parts about community gardens is that they allow gardeners to learn and then take home the skills to start their own gardens.

The City has provided support from the beginning – they allowed the use of the land, cleared it, provide mulch, and supply the water. Patricia Asseff, Vice Mayor, would like to see it grow: “I love the garden and I think they could be more successful if they apply for grant money,” said Asseff.

As for adding more community gardens throughout the city, we’ll have to wait until the City finishes writing an official policy on community gardens. “The City is interested in having more gardens, it is just that at this time we want to have a policy in place before we move forward,” said Joann Hussey, spokesperson for Hollywood.

Like all the works of man, though, the Garden won’t last forever. The City has agreed to not only allow the garden to exist until a developer uses the land, but to allow the gardeners enough time to harvest their crop when the time comes.

But for now, crops are flourishing. “Today I saw a cucumber flower and a cilantro flower and a jalapeno flower and a squash flower and 6 different types of tomatoes,” said garden organizer Maria Jackson late December.  “Three kinds of basil and Swiss chard and two types of lettuce, stevia, katuk, lots of milkweed seeds and pumpkin are growing everywhere.” Jackson encourages residents to come tour the gardens at 2316 Adams Street in Highland Gardens between the hours of 7am-9am any day.

For more information on joining or to set up a tour, call Maria Jackson at 786-357-2197.