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Archives for August 8, 2013

City College Climbs Out Of Cuts

Things at Long Beach City College are looking better. That’s the good news.

The passage of Proposition 30 has helped, LBCC Superintendent-President Eloy Oakley said.

“We’re able to get additional funding for student support services,” he said. 

“This is all good news. In addition, because the changes we made the last several years in reaction to the budget difficulties, we’re now able to put those cuts behind us and allocate money to the greatest needs of our students. But it will take us quite a while to climb out of that hole.”

At the end of last school year, there was not good news. The LBCC Board of Trustees voted to cut 11 instructional programs from the curriculum. This caused then-student trustee Jason Troia to lead a recall effort that has not come to full fruition — although his group recently announced it was pressing forward.

“Those programs were discontinued after the board took the action at the end of the spring semester,” Oakley said. “We are now taking those funds allocated and putting them into new programs.”

For example, he added, there will be a new cyber security program of study, which should filter into a new and burgeoning workforce — particularly at the Port of Long Beach.

“You’ll see those changes this fall and particularly over the next year, and you’ll see us talking more and more,” Oakley said. “I don’t foresee any major bad news this year in terms of budget outlook. There is still risk in our budget, but that is much smaller than previous years.”

A point of emphasis moving into the 2013/2014 academic year for LBCC officials will be the Promise Pathways initiative. The program concentrates on placing incoming students into the right math and English classes — using their high school achievement and transcripts more, rather than the standard assessment test.

“Many did not know they had to take it, weren’t prepared to take it, or it didn’t capture the experience they had (from high school),” Oakley said.

For the LBCC as a whole, officials said they wanted this to be a year of celebration — with education initiatives and infrastructure progress.

“We’re going to be doing a lot of celebrating at the college and talking about what the staff has accomplished,” Oakley said.

There will be major landscaping and signage changes at both campuses, along with a new Culinary Arts and Math facility at the Liberal Arts Campus. Taking a cue from the governor’s request of higher education, Oakley said online education and technology development would be a must. An example: degree audit software will be launched to track classes and work toward degrees.

“We’re gong to make greater use of technology going into the future,” he added. “We want to help our students learn wherever they are.”

In the next two to three years, about 30-35 new faculty could be hired, which he said would add fresh ideas onto the campuses. Overall, the outlook must be better.

“It was certainly a difficult year as a culmination of four difficult years,” Oakley said. “The board had to make many difficult decisions. They were very hard decisions, certainly for me personally and for the board. We care deeply about all of our students.

“I think sometimes in Long Beach we do lose sight of how much work we have done, though, through our partnerships — we are an envy in the nation.”

For more information about Long Beach City College, visit

Jonathan Van Dyke can be reached at

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Back garden plan for Freefolk thatched cottages

Back garden plan for Freefolk thatched cottages

Manor Farm Cottages in Freefolk

AMAZING thatch, shame about the back gardens.

That was the feeling of many people who live under the longest span of residential thatch in the UK – Manor Farm Cottages, in Freefolk.

Now Sovereign Housing Association, which owns the properties, has pledged to put up £100,000 to improve the 18 back gardens.

Anna Thornton, Sovereign’s housing officer for Freefolk, has been discussing ideas with residents since last October.

She said: “We invited one of our landscape gardeners to work with them, and he was able to produce computer-generated designs to show them how the area could look”.

Further discussions have covered materials and layouts.

The gardens, which have not been much more than yards, will now be revamped with a combination of gravel, grass and patio area with the possibility of some box hedging and additional garden borders.

Landscaping work, which will take approximately six weeks to complete, will begin towards the end of the summer.

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Home tour offers variety, creativity

One of eight homes on the tour. Photo by Sue Misao

One of eight homes on the tour. Photo by Sue Misao

By Ann McCreary

Eclectic, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means “selecting what appears to be best in various doctrines, methods, or styles.”

That’s just what organizers of the Methow Valley Home Tour have done this year in choosing eight homes with very different styles that offer “creativity inside and out,” said Barbara Newman.

Called “Eclectic Methow,” this Saturday’s (Aug. 10) tour features a home that incorporates recycled and found materials, an elegant remodeled home with a European style interior, and a contemporary home with simple, geometric lines.

“I think people are going to like the home tour this year because it will give them ideas they can personally use,” said Newman, who helped organize the tour.

Two homes belong to artists, “using things for decorating that you just wouldn’t expect,” Newman said.

Creative features in the kitchen. Photo by Sue Misao

Creative features in the kitchen. Photo by Sue Misao

One of those homes belongs to Tamra Jennings, a painter who moved to the Methow Valley two years ago with a piece of paper on which she had drawn a floor plan. She built a house in Twisp on the Methow River, creating unique furniture, décor and outdoor art from items most people would haul to the dump.

Her dining room table is made from the round top of a telephone line spool, mounted on a metal barrel. She finished the wooden top of the spool with an elegant, gold-hued paint. Her TV sits in a wall-mounted console she made from discarded fence boards that she reclaimed and refinished.

The counter and cupboards in her bathroom are made from an old apple crate. She covered the top with torn up grocery bags that she glued to the surface, painted and sealed. She built end tables, headboards and other pieces of furniture out of scrap wood.

“The idea is to take what somebody already has and make it into something else,” said Jennings, who had never made furniture  before building her house. “I’m just about finished with the house, and I don’t want to stop!”

Among the other stops on the tour, a hillside home in Pine Forest provides “a modest living space transformed into a viewing platform,” and incorporates cost-effective building materials, Newman said. “It shows that you don’t have to have a lot of money to have a very cool looking structure.”

A remodeled Wolf Creek home has an “Old World interior” reminiscent of Italy and extensive use of recycled building materials, Newman said. Another home has an interior rock-climbing wall.

Three homes have beautiful gardens, including one close to downtown Twisp that creates “a little oasis” in an urban neighborhood, Newman said.

The tour provides ideas for landscaping, building a new home or remodeling an existing house, Newman said. “It’s a lot of people’s creativity.”

The tour takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday. Tickets are available at Confluence Gallery and Art Center for $25 apiece or $20 for four. Tickets may also be purchased at the Mazama Store on the day of the tour.

Confluence Gallery is also featuring an “Inside-Out” art exhibit at the gallery to further assist with home projects.

For more information or reservations call Confluence Gallery and Art Center, 997-2787.

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Associated Garden Clubs keeps city beautiful

If you go

What: Associated Garden Clubs annual tour

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $10, children 11 and younger are free; available at Judy’s Enchanted Garden, 2628 W. Northwest Blvd. and Northwest Seed Pet, 2422 E. Sprague Ave., or at any of the featured gardens during the tour.

Gardens: Gloria and Jim Waggoner/Paulsen House garden and Myrtle White Paulsen Meditation Garden, 245 E. 13th Ave.; Jane and Sam Joseph, 1910 S. Upper Terrace Road; Breck and Elaine Breckenridge, 31 W. 37th Ave.; Barbara and Will Murray, 1004 W. 23rd Ave.; and Norma Norton, 729 E. 23rd Ave.

Call: (509) 448-3037

One thing I’ve always enjoyed about Spokane is the community spirit that is driven by the many social organizations and clubs.

One of the clubs that has been an integral part of Spokane development is the Associated Garden Clubs. The group has its roots with the formation of the Spokane Floral Association in 1896; the first garden club in the state of Washington. This was during City Beautiful era in America when garden clubs and other civic groups promoted beautification through the development of gardens in blighted areas. Spokane was part of this movement and between 1900 and the early 1930s, the city’s many neighborhood garden clubs helped develop green spaces throughout the city.

In 1933, the Associated Garden Clubs, the Spokane Floral Association and six other garden and community clubs came together to have Spokane declared the Lilac City after Portland was designated the Rose City. The City Beautiful efforts did have their competitive side.

In 1938, inspired by the new Portland Rose Festival, the groups held the first Lilac Festival Flower Show that featured displays of French, Persian and Chinese lilacs. On the side there was a small parade. The Davenport Hotel’s lobby was filled with bouquets of lilacs for the occasion. The first Lilac queen and court were selected in 1940, and the parade evolved into our current Armed Forces Torchlight Parade. Today the parade is managed by the independent Lilac Festival Association.

After the Lilac Festival was spun off, the Associated Garden Clubs’ neighborhood-based groups continued their work beautifying the city and creating green spaces and small pocket parks. Many of the small odd triangles of land created by the intersection of streets on Spokane’s South Hill were planted and cared for by various AGC neighborhood garden clubs. Being a member of your neighborhood garden club was an important way for women in the 1940s and ’50s to become involved in the community. Today it is still an important way to engage with like-minded neighbors. Many of the original clubs are still active including Lincoln Heights, Manito, Rockwood and Spokane.

In 1986 the Associated Garden Clubs created their now famous April Plant Sale and held the city’s first garden tour as a way of showing off some of the city’s great private gardens. The sale and tour also helped raise funds to support beautification projects all over the city and scholarships for the Lilac Festival Court.

Some of the places that have benefited from these events include Manito Park, gardens and landscaping around schools, the downtown YWCA, Spokane Civic Theatre, Riverfront Park, Hospice of Spokane, the Turner-Moore Heritage Gardens and Polly Judd Park.

Pat Munts has gardened in Spokane Valley for more than 35 years. She can be reached at pat@inland

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Orlando prunes its proposed front-yard-garden rules

After an embarrassing battle with a couple of College Park gardeners, Orlando officials have drawn up new rules governing homeowners who want to plant carrots and cucumbers in their front yards.

It’s the latest salvo — and probably the last — in a literal turf war over what Orlando residents can plant in front of their homes. It started last year, when Jason and Jennifer Helvenston were hit with a code-enforcement citation for digging up their front lawn and replacing it with lettuce, kale, radishes, tomatoes and more.

The perception of big government cracking down on veggies drew national media attention and a gardener revolt.

City planners responded by drawing up rules that specifically allowed front-yard vegetable gardens, but greenies protested outside City Hall. The rules were so strict that they would drastically cut the space available for food gardens, they argued. Commissioners sent the planners back to the drawing board.

The new version, expected to go to the City Council for final approval next month, is quite a bit more lax.

“We’re going to get to keep our garden,” Jason Helvenston said. “There are going to be very few gardens that will be illegal under this particular wording.”

The first version of the garden regulations would have allowed residents to plant vegetables over no more than 25 percent of their front yard; required gardens to be screened with fencing or shrubs, set back at least 10 feet from the property line or put in planter boxes; and limited vegetable plants to no more than 4 feet tall.

Green-thumbed protesters objected to the city’s approach. Gardens are on the rise, partly because of the still-struggling economy, partly because of a “clean food” movement that worries about pesticides and the environmental footprint of factory farming. Gardeners argued that city officials should be encouraging residents to cultivate their own food, not limiting how much space they can use or how tall their tomatoes grow.

Planners revamped the new rules with help from landscape architects, horticulturists and even the Helvenstons themselves.

The new rules would allow veggies to cover as much as 60 percent of a front yard. The 10-foot setback was shrunk to 3 feet, and the vegetable-height limit was thrown out entirely. Jennifer Helvenston credited the gardening army with changing minds at City Hall.

“I think we arrived at the right spot in the end,” chief planner Jason Burton said. “That input from around the world and locally helped get us to the point we are today, where we have an ordinance I think everyone can live with. I think it’s a positive thing.”

Burton said Orlando unfairly got something of a black eye over the garden war. Planners simply want to ensure well-maintained landscaping, vegetable or otherwise, rather than out-of-control weeds or a garden gone to seed.

“People thought we were against front-yard gardens, and we really weren’t,” Burton said. “People are not always successful with gardens, and what happens is, people will do it for one season and suddenly it’s dirt forever. We wanted to make sure there was a level of permanent landscaping.”

Helvenston predicts one portion of the new code will have unintended consequences. The city added a 5-foot height limit on temporary structures that was meant to govern things such as tomato cages, but Helvenston thinks it would prevent homeowners from placing swings or fountains in their front yards.

Gardeners are likely to be as happy as they can be with a set of rules. But the Helvenstons wonder: Why adopt any rules at all, especially if they are so limited they’ll affect few homeowners?

“It’s a perfect example of how a government reacts to something and tries to do their thing but goes way too far,” Jason Helvenston said. “They didn’t really need to do anything but say, ‘Front-yard gardens are OK.'”, 407-420-5417 or Twitter @MarkSchlueb

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Back yard bounty: Your landscaping can include a lot more than just grass

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I do not have a green thumb. I learned long ago to avoid growing things inside or outside. I suppose I could try again, now, many years wiser and smarter, but I’ve conditioned myself that I’m just going to let yet another poor, lovely plant die.

Luckily, in many ways luckily, Jim has enough green thumbs for the both of us, so in the front yard in Austin, Texas, there is cactus, a sweet potato growing like wildfire in a pot, and a few other plants I don’t know the names of. The back yard has grapes growing on a trellis, three tomato plants that yield a few ripe tomatoes a day, and oodles of herbs — basil, sage, dill, tarragon, chives and more. That’s just outside.

When I’m down in Austin, I finally get to pick herbs for those sometimes successful vegetarian meals I make. The last one was a disaster, but at least it had nice herbs in it. Who knew baking mushrooms, broccoli and cheese in a cast iron pan on top of the stove could go so horribly wrong? At least my polenta turned out OK.

The backyard garden is a wonderful thing. When you combine beautiful landscaping practices with stuff you can eat, well, it’s perfect harmony. Our gardens aren’t meticulously landscaped — some of the herbs are in a tub — and the back yard is decorated by non-working (for now) vintage cars and a random Corvair Ultravan, along with a big wooden bar, the top of which is embedded with girly playing cards from the ’70s but someday, we might have some method to the madness.

Many can, indeed, combine well-crafted back or front yard flora with something to eat. And this, readers, is how I segue into telling you about the Slow Food Seacoast Edible Garden Tour and Gala. Boom!

All over the Seacoast, there are people with green thumbs and big appetites who combine their at-home landscapes with fruits, herbs, nuts, veggies, bees and even chickens. Slow Food Seacoast, in partnership with the Piscataqua Garden Club and Strawbery Banke Museum, will present a tour of 15 of these amazing gardens that feature an edible component in their landscape. You’ll be able to take inspiration from these gardens and maybe even do it yourself. The tour will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 11, and includes historic gardens, community gardens, school gardens and exceptional private gardens throughout Portsmouth and New Castle.

In addition to the tour, Slow Food Seacoast is hosting an Edible Garden Gala Fund-raiser from 4:30 to 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 10. Enjoy an evening of fine local food prepared by The Green Monkey Restaurant. You’ll gather with the community and likely a bunch of people you already know, and stroll through the beautiful edible gardens and grounds of a magnificent Kittery Point oceanside estate with specially created local brews and wines. It includes brews from Earth Eagle and Tod Mott who has made two special brews for the occasion. Admission to this “fun-raiser” includes sumptuous appetizers, beverages, and tickets for the Edible Garden Tour the following day.

If you’re a member of Strawbery Banke, Slow Food or the Piscataqua Garden Club, tour tickets are $12, $15 for non-members and the Gala and Tour together are $45 for members, $55 non-members.

Tickets can be purchased online with credit card or check at or at Strawbery Banke Museum-Portsmouth, Rolling Green Nursery-Greenland and Wentworth Greenhouses-Rollinsford with cash or check only.

More important information and reasons to go, as if what I already wrote was not enough (lifted from their press release): If you wish to view all gardens, plan on taking most of the day. This is not a walking tour. The gardens are located in both Portsmouth and New Castle and you will need a vehicle or bicycle to reach all of them. The tour begins at Strawbery Banke Museum where each ticket-holder will receive free heirloom seeds, and a garden location guide that includes information on unique garden features, featured foods and activities. While at Strawbery Banke, participants will be invited to visit and view a variety of historic edible, organic and heirloom gardens, including the new ethnobotanical herb garden, community gardens, 17th-century raised bed kitchen gardens, immigrant gardens, victory gardens, heritage orchards, a children’s garden, and a special 1 p.m. “edible garden history tour” with John Forti, co-founder of Slow Food Seacoast and curator of Historic Landscape at Strawbery Banke. John Forti, one of my most favorite people on the planet.

Tickets support Slow Food Seacoast efforts to preserve regional heirloom biodiversity, foster local taste education, sponsor school gardens and cultivate a new generation of environmental stewards, farmers, gardeners, chefs and consumers, in order to promote locally produced, good, clean and fair food for all. Edible gardens and landscapes are the new victory gardens in the battle against genetically modified organisms, corporate agriculture and poor nutrition. They also offer a positive inter-generational opportunity for families to unplug, plant, cook and eat together while helping to foster healthier habitats and a sense of place.

What a great way to learn how to make a garden that is not only beautiful, but feeds the family, too. I’m hopeful my own knowledge will grow and my thumb will be much, much greener. I’m still going to be ruining perfectly good ingredients trying to make more diversified vegetarian meals for quite some time, though.

Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner who lives in Exeter (and Austin). Her column appears Thursdays in GoDo. Her restaurant review column, Dining Out, appears Thursdays in Spotlight magazine. She can be reached by e-mail at


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Melinda’s Garden Moment: Waterwise Gardening Tips

matter where you live, being a waterwise gardener makes environmental and
economic sense. And it’s really easier
than you think.

rain barrels to capture rain off your roof or directly from the sky. Decorate or mask the barrels with nearby

connect it to a soaker hose installed in a nearby garden.  Just open the spigot and allow gravity to
slowly empty the water throughout the day.

soaker hoses and drip irrigation will also save water by applying the water
directly to the soil where it is needed.

moisture-loving plants together. You’ll
save time and money spent watering by skipping those drought tolerant plants
and lawns that can recover from drought induced dormancy.

water thoroughly and less frequently to encourage deep drought tolerant
roots. And mulch the soil to conserve
moisture and keep roots cool.

Many municipalities, nature centers, and home gardeners are converting 50-gallon
food containers into rain barrels. The
price is right, but they are not always the most attractive.  Improve their looks with a bit of paint and
creativity. Watch the Melinda’s Garden
Moment on painting rain barrels for
tips and techniques.

Visit for more.

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Timely tips and trivia from the garden

I am not much of a pack rat except when it comes to trivia. Garden trivia, to be precise. I find it amazing how much stuff is going on in the world of horticulture that often impacts our daily lives and is not widely known.

This column is intended to change that, in some small way.

Medical marvels

Did you, for instance, know that the largest botanical garden in the world, Kew Gardens in London, England, is home not only to the most extensive collection of genetic plant material but that they employ more than 300 full-time staff in a medical research department? The idea of this massive undertaking is based on the fact that more than 30 per cent of the drugs in current use worldwide originally were derived from the world of plants. Today’s dandelion could be tomorrow’s solution to indigestion. Who knows?

As a footnote, this medical mandate at Kew goes all the way back to the original charter of the place more than 350 years ago. Another factoid: our own Royal Botanical Garden in Burlington and the Montreal Botanical Garden have similar mandates, though smaller than Kew. The research staff at Canada’s botanical gardens collaborate with others in the field around the world.

Worm magic

Here is a little bit of news that you should share with your children or grandchildren, as all youngsters either love or hate earth worms and everyone loves worm gossip. An earth worm consumes decomposing material equal to its body weight each day throughout the summer. What comes out the rear end of the worms is called worm castings. When applied to plants as a nutrient-rich fertilizer, worm castings help to dramatically reduce a plants susceptibility to aphids, whiteflies and other bugs. The castings themselves are about seven times more phosphorous-rich, have five times more nitrogen, 1.5 times more calcium and 1,000 times more beneficial bacteria packed than the stuff they consume. Their digestive system, one could argue, is a miracle worker.

Speaking of fascinating facts, Organic Gardening magazine reports that the average fully detached home has about two tonnes of earth worms crawling through the soil in the yard. Sleep well in the knowledge …

Grow Your Own Food, but How Much?

The increasing popularity of growing food plants to feed ourselves is not exclusively a Canadian phenomenon. Based on my own extensive reading on the subject, Europeans are ahead of us on this curve and the Americans are running neck in neck with us. Which raises the question, if you were to raise all of the food that you consume in your own yard, what size would it have to be to feed a family of four? Kevin Hartnett of the Boston Globe quoted One Block-Off the Grid when he stated: “To feed a family of four strictly on a home-grown diet of vegetables, you’d need 1.76 acres. Add meat, dairy, corn and wheat to those vegetables and you’d need more land, but not much more — about two well-organized acres would be enough.� Ready for your move to the country?

Who ARE Gardeners?

I have argued in recent years that gardeners are not mutually exclusive from, say, birders, conservationists, environmentalists or community activists. Very often they are the same people. I was pleased to read Nigel Colborn’s column in The Garden Magazine (Great Britain) wherein he explains: “Responsible garden owners are also wildlife conservators. The plight of bees and other pollinators is widely recognised but most wild species are in decline, largely because of habitat loss. Well-managed gardens can play a strong role in fostering diversity. Small adjustments to management, such as abandoning lawn herbicides or planting for pollinators, can result in dramatic increases in hundreds of species.� This shows how our garden activity contributes in a measurable way to the greater natural environment around us. Again, gardeners do not plant and nurture for their own benefit exclusively. We do it for the greater good of the whole neighbourhood.

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Gardening study days: where to go for sage advice

The Gardeners’ Benevolent Fund charity, Perennial (0845 230 1839;, hosts courses at interesting gardens, given by those who
look after them (I went to one at the Kensington Roof Gardens). In
September, Jon Brocklebank, head gardener at Barnsdale
in Rutland, will take the fear out of pruning, adding a three-course lunch,
with time to explore Geoff Hamilton’s garden – his son Nick also holds
courses there.

Assington Water Mill
in Suffolk (01787 229955) has a course for everyone. From “Hunting with
Harris Hawks” to “Chain-sawing for Amateurs”, owner Anne Holden tries
anything once. Coming up are “Cider-making” (September 7) and “Beekeeping
for Beginners” (September 15), or why not try “Clay oven-making”? A very
special place, I gave “Hen Keeping” days there for years, but now offer them
here in Whitstable (

Fergus Garrett’s successional growing tips

Start the season with small-leaved bulb varieties like snowdrops, that won’t
kill tiny seedlings as the leaves die down.

Always use the best plant varieties, e.g. Ann Folkard or Rozanne for
long-lasting geraniums.

Plant climbers and small-flowered clematis through short-season shrubs like
lilac, also C. juiniana praecox through bulbs on the flat.

Add bedding plants like cosmos ‘Purity’ with pretty foliage and a long season,
or nasturtiums or bidens in gaps.

Encourage self-sowers red orach, Verbena bonariensis (above), or Lychnis
coronaria, but thin them out.

Copy Dixter’s pot displays of agaves, hostas and succulents to fill holes left
by summer-flowering plants like lupins.

Shrubs like evergreens Euonymus ‘Silver Queen’, Ilex ‘Golden King’ and Cornus
alba ‘Elegantissima’ give winter structure.

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Move Over Crackerjack: SF Giants Stadium Gets Edible Garden

When’s the last time you saw locally grown salads being sold next to peanuts and popcorn at your favorite Major League Baseball park? My guess is never, but that’s about to change. The San Francisco Giants recently announced that its centerfield bleachers will soon be replaced with a 3,000 square-foot organic garden designed by EDG Design Group.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the in-park urban farm “will be planted behind the center-field wall, a space between the left- and right-field bleachers that is now mostly concrete and the area where replacement sod is grown.”  Already Dubbed “Giant’s Garden” it’s hoped that the fruits, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers grown there will educate baseball fans about the wisdom of growing their own fresh food, and eventually, be used park’s catering operations.

organic garden Giant's Stadium EDG Design

Image via EDG Design Group

It’s been called a “centerfield-to-table” project, and I suspect the Giant’s are right in claiming that it’s the first of it’s kind. “We really wanted to be able to do something that is not just very San Francisco, but a part of today’s world,” said Larry Baer, Giants president and CEO, told the Chronicle. “The commitment we’re making is to create this garden and use that real estate in a way that’s productive. We think it’s the perfect solution.”

The idea is so spectacular, yet so simple, that it caught the attention of one of the country’s most famous organic gardeners: Michelle Obama. The subject came up during the Giants’ recent visit to the White House as World Series Champions.

According to the organization, the garden will be utilized as community space, even when the MLB season is on hiatus. It’s hoped that classes and tours for families and kids will be available in the offseason.

Although construction plans are still in their early phases, renderings of the garden include hydroponic troughs, concrete planters and green trellises, or “living walls.”

The Giants hope to have construction completed so the garden is ready for Opening Day 2014. More images here.

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