Free Compost?!

Last weekend, I was walking home from the grocery store, and I decided to take an alternate route. This was a very fortuitous decision, because I happened upon a public garden that I had never seen before.

And what’s more, I saw this sign:

Free compost? Huh?

There was a pretty large pile of compost and a woman was there shoveling compost into bags and putting them in the trunk of her car. Remember how the city of Palo Alto collects our green waste and turns it into electricity? I had assumed the “leftover” compost generated from the process was given to farmers, but the woman shoveling compost told me that that leftover compost actually ends up here, and yes, any Palo Alto resident is free to use it. The city restocks the pile regularly.

Well, gee. I’ve been bummed about the hard dry soil in the back of our house, so as soon as I got home, I found a bucket (an old garbage bin) and a shovel, and drove back over to the compost pile.

I filled the garbage bucket about 1/3 of the way full (that was all I could lift into my car).

Once I figure out the garden layout for next year, I’ll start spreading the compost so it has time to settle into the ground before planting begins. Hooray! I can’t wait to plant in better soil this year!

The Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden

About 10 minutes from my house is a public garden called the Elizabeth F. Gamble Garden. It’s free and open to the public even now during COVID (so long as you wear a mask and observe physical distancing).

It’s a very neatly arranged garden, part flower garden, and part vegetable garden.

Here are some photos of the flower part of the garden in mid-July:

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The Neighborhood Gardens of Palo Alto

In contrast to the lush, terraced gardens of Seattle, Palo Alto is flat and dry. Although citrus trees are a frequent sight, I don’t think I’ve seen a single vegetable garden since I’ve been here. Perhaps vegetable gardens are tucked in backyards out of view from the street, but somehow, I doubt it.

Here are some of the gardens I see on my walks around the neighborhood these days:

Lots of this style of planting: spread out shrubs/cacti with dirt, mulch or rocks in between.
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Welcome to My New Garden

I moved to California exactly one week ago. I’m getting settled. Still not completely settled (but, I’ll only be here for two years, so I don’t know if I’ll ever feel really “settled).

The house where I’m renting has a small backyard with some fruit trees. When I mentioned that I was interested in gardening, my landlord (and roommate), Keith, got inspired, and decided to build some raised boxes in which to plant some herbs and veggies. He also has a couple of small cherry tomato plants in pots.

Here’s a few pictures of the new garden:

The view from the back porch, just off the kitchen. The fruit trees are mostly planted on the left side of the garage.
A small table on the deck with some potted plants
The potted tomato plants – they’ve got a few cherry tomatoes on them, but they don’t look great :/
The garden box with basil, sage, thai basil and oregano (being crowded out by the thai basil)
Fig tree on the side of the garage
The Meyer lemon tree
A pomegranate tree!

Not pictured are an apple tree, a navel orange tree, a lime tree, a blood orange tree, a plum tree, and a small kumquat shrub. The only plant with ripe fruit right now is the Meyer lemon.

I’m planning to add a few more vegetables and herbs of my own to the garden. Although in Seattle, it would probably be a little too late to start some things from seed, being in zone 9b, I expect a long growing season. Oddly enough, I don’t see a lot of vegetable gardens in yards, like there were in Seattle. I wonder if there are challenges to growing vegetables here that I don’t foresee…