The Not-So-Secret Garden

As the owner of a single family home, my wife and I have the luxury of a yard that we can do with what we want. Over the years we have transformed our yard several times. When our children were young we had a lawn in front that provided them with a place to play, and a vegetable garden in back where we and they could experiment with growing food and other interesting plants. These days the lawn is long gone, replaced with natives and other drought-tolerant plants. We still have a few edibles growing in the back yard, including two citrus trees and a variety of herbs that we use in the kitchen. My wife in particular loves to try out new plants, and so I expect that our yard will continue to change in various ways over the next several years.

Gardening is great: not only is it a fun outdoor activity that you can share with your family and friends, it also can be a source of high-quality, inexpensive food. But gardening takes land, and for those who live in an apartment or condominium, open land that one can do with as they please is not easy to come by. This is where community gardens come in: they can provide an opportunity for almost anyone to grow plants, be they for food or simply for pleasure. Community gardens are few and far between, though. This is understandable given the value of land in our part of the world, but given their benefits we should do what we can to employ all the little bits of otherwise unused land for community gardens.

As I walk around Redwood City I’ve noticed a number of small (some, very small) community gardens. Most of the ones I have been finding are tended by a relatively new organization called Incredible Edible Mid-Peninsula. This Redwood City-based organization is “a group of local gardeners who share the belief that our community is enriched when all residents have access to good, local fruits and vegetables and are engaged in the process.” They have been working with Redwood City Parks & Recreation to carve out small spaces where fruits and vegetables can be grown and then shared with the community at large. It appears that the organization plants the plants and tends the garden, and then when the fruits are ready for harvest they sit back and let anyone who wants some of the produce to simply take it. I should note that they do request that we not take any more than we can eat the day we pick, and leave the rest for others.

The first of their gardens that I came across is located at the corner of Alameda de Las Pulgas and Vera Avenue, near Roosevelt School. In early 2017 Incredible Edible planted eight fruit trees here: apple, pear, plum, apricot & nectarine. It is a lovely spot, one that has been sitting idle for some time. Presumably because it was planted entirely with fruit trees, they’ve labeled this a “Community Orchard.”

[click the above for a larger, more readable version]

Next up is one that I’ve written about before: the very small community garden located in two planter boxes up against our Whole Foods store, on the corner of Jefferson Avenue and Adams Street. Because everything is in planter boxes, there are no fruit trees, of course. During the winter the boxes held leafy greens: Swiss chard, kale, spinach, and a couple of different lettuces. Over the summer, the planter boxes were replanted with tomatoes and strawberries, which fruited in August. I haven’t been by lately to see if there are any strawberries or tomatoes still available, but I’m guessing not. In any case, the next time you are at Whole Foods you might take a moment and walk around the Jefferson side of the building to check out this tiny community garden.

Not too long ago I walked through Red Morton Park. I was there to see if there was any progress on the Magical Bridge playground, but other than the utility work that was completed some time ago, there is nothing visible to report. I should note that at their September 10 meeting the City Council awarded a contract to a Santa Clara construction firm to construct this new park-with-a-park, so I expect to see progress soon. In any case, I then walked through Red Morton towards downtown, and as I passed McGarvey Field at the Myrtle Street end of the park I noticed yet another Incredible Edible community orchard. Although I didn’t see it, apparently there is a second one at Red Morton Park, around the Senior Center/Master Gardeners garden behind the Herkner Pool. But the one I did see was right behind home plate:

Apparently they are both filled with a wide variety of fruit trees, so do look for them the next time you are at Red Morton Park.

Although it is no longer clear just who will do the work, it does seem that someday we may actually get a somewhat larger community garden in the small triangular piece of land at the corner of Maple and Lathrop streets, behind the Acura dealership. This small city-owned parcel was called out by two separate development proposals as something that the developers would turn into a community garden for the benefit of the city, although one project—the South Main Mixed Use project (aka 1601 El Camino Real), which proposes one apartment building and multiple office buildings on six adjoining blocks currently occupied by Hopkins Acura, Towne Ford, and various small businesses—has updated their plans: their proposal no longer appears to call for any work on this parcel. The 1180 Main Street project, however, which proposes a three-story office building on the empty lot across from the Main & Elm restaurant, still is, I believe, intending to include the community garden as one of the “community benefits” that would result if their project is built. Of course, if the 1180 Main Street project isn’t built, or if it is but they don’t include the community garden as part of their project, I’m guessing that Incredible Edible Mid-Peninsula would love to get their hands on the site, and thus I expect that one way or another we’ll get a community garden of some sort here.

(The above picture shows the potential garden site. The street on the left is Maple Street, and the buildings at the right edge of the photo are part of Hopkins Acura. El Camino Real was behind me as I took this photo.)

Finally, one more: it seems that the Broadway Plaza project, which hopes to replace the mostly empty shopping center at the corner of Woodside Road and Broadway with several office and apartment buildings, along with a brand-new CVS right across Woodside Road, also hopes to include a community garden on their project site. The Sobrato Organization, the project’s developer, has apparently been working with Incredible Edible to identify space within the project for community gardens. According to a post on Incredible Edible Mid-Peninsula’s website, “[The Sobrato Organization has] identified south-facing common areas in both the affordable housing and market rate apartments that would work for gardens and we discussed about how fruit trees and pollinator plants could be incorporated into common areas throughout the development.” This all sounds great, although of course the proposed project has a long way to go before they gain City approval (assuming that they do). And it appears that this particular community garden may be intended for the residents of the proposed 400-odd apartments that the project would bring. Still, it would be a terrific benefit for those residents, and thus I do hope that if the project is indeed approved, that the garden is built as planned.

While I would love to see a really large community garden somewhere within Redwood City where residents could work on their own individual plots, I do admire the initiative taken by Incredible Edible Mid-Peninsula to identify and plant small otherwise-unused pieces of land throughout Redwood City and beyond. While these small plots, planted and tended as they are by Incredible Edible, don’t do much for those gardeners among us, they provide something that everyone can enjoy: free, wholesome fruits and vegetables. Now if I could just make it to one of those gardens when the fruit is ripe, but before everyone else has picked all the good stuff…

8 thoughts on “The Not-So-Secret Garden

  1. Thanks, Greg! Do you know if any of the planned neighborhood access points of the Stanford project will contain community gardens? The University values community gardens on the main campus, but did they plan any here?

    • From looking at the plans it doesn’t appear that there will be any community gardens on the Stanford in Redwood City campus. They will be constructing a large open space that will adjoin Andrew Spinas park, and there will be a nice walking path through the middle of the well-landscaped campus that the public can take advantage of, but I haven’t heard about nor am I seeing on the plans anything that looks like a community garden.

  2. Hi Walking Guy, Thank you so much for highlighting our work! Redwood City Parks & the City of Redwood City have partnered with us for the orchards and we are so happy they are being discovered. The reason you are not finding much produce is that it is quickly picked, mostly by those that need it most. As in most cities on the Peninsula, cities are reluctant to start community gardens on public properties because of logistical problems that require staffing; we ask that if you & readers that feel this is an important part of what the city offer that you let them know with letters & talks to Parks, Council, Planning members, statements at council meetings. We would love to have more folks join us to expand the gardens, find us at

    Yes, Terrance, the Collective Roots garden in EPA is an amazing program that dovetails with it’s partner organization Fresh Approach to provide gardens and a mobile farmers market to EPA.

    Claire Felong,
    Incredible Edible Mid-Peninsul

    • Thanks. Glad to hear that people are making use of the produce your gardens er, produce. I of course do feel that what you are doing is important; hopefully my blog post will help spread the word and perhaps get you some new supporters.

  3. There is a garden on the HH right of way in NFO area of East RWC. It’s on and/or near Dumbarton and Huntington Aves. Place is spotless! Not one piece of trash, even tho sometimes a mattress is left OUTSIDE on the sidewalk. Goes to show if the local people are involved, the place stays clean. There is also a little playground. Am amazed every time I pass it. Garden, not garbage!

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