Community gardens proposals to bloom soon in Temecula and Murrieta public places

Plans to create community gardens are taking root in Temecula and Murrieta.

A pair of community garden proposals has sprouted independently of each other at the same time in the neighboring cities. And while both projects are aimed at benefiting seniors or other recipients, they are sprouting in different directions as planting season approaches.

The Temecula City Council approved its garden plan in November and allocated $24,000 to launch its effort. Murrieta has not set aside any funds, but officials will detail their plan and volunteer and corporate involvement at a community meeting that will unfold from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Tuesday.

“We’re gearing up for the spring to get this up and going,” Councilman Gary Thomasian said in a recent interview. He referenced Murrieta’s garden proposal during a state of the city presentation that he made as mayor in late November.

At that time, Thomasian said the garden is one Murrieta is showing that it is “a community with a heart.”

Murrieta’s garden plan calls for the city to set aside an acre near Alta Murrieta Sports Park. The garden, which could be expanded later, would initially raise row crops for senior programs or community pantries. Fruit trees and possibly other crops could be planted in future years.

There is no plan at this time to create a component of the program in which residents could rent a gardening plot in the garden for their individual production, officials said.

The program is expected to draw upon volunteer labor from church groups, Salvation Army, Produce for People and other nonprofit organizations. Local stores, gardening outlets and landscaping companies have been enlisted in the food production and distribution effort, Thomasian said.

The city plans to subsidize the garden’s irrigation costs.

“I think it’s a real collaborative effort to get this up and going,” he said.

The workshop – which will also delve into composting, pest control and other gardening topics – will be held at the Murrieta Public Library in the city’s Town Square.

Temecula’s garden will be created on a smaller scale between two existing city facilities. Temecula officials were unaware that their Murrieta counterparts were also poised to launch a community gardens project.

“I hadn’t heard about them,” Herman Parker, Temecula’s community services director, said in an interview. “It makes sense, though. They’re neat additions to a community.”

Temecula’s garden – which will utilize raised planter beds – will be wedged between the city’s history museum and the Mary Phillips Senior Center in Old Town.

The recommendation to launch a community garden in Temecula came from City Councilman Ron Roberts. Roberts suggested that Temecula’s garden be patterned after one that was launched about a year ago at the Kay Ceniceros Senior Center in Menifee.

Roberts works as an aide to Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone, whose office helped fund the construction of the so-called “Victory Garden.” Area seniors and school children tend the seven raised planter beds there and the produce is shared among garden participants and center events and programs, said Leslie Covey, center director.

Stone represents Temecula, Murrieta, French Valley and other communities on the five-member county board.

Roberts said the Kay Ceniceros garden, which began with three raised planter beds and later expanded to seven, has been applauded by youths and seniors at the popular center. He said the raised beds are popular because they allow seniors to garden without kneeling.

Temecula is currently designing its garden, which will likely start with seven raised planter beds that are each about 48 square feet in size.

It’s possible that more planter beds could be added later, Parker said. The city funds would be used to remove existing turf, install fencing and irrigation and possibly add a picnic table and a tool shed, he said. It’s hoped that Temecula’s garden will be ready for planting in March or April.

Temecula’s garden will be operated by the Senior Golden Years group, which would use the vegetables and other food grown there for center meals, food banks or other projects.

As is the case with Murrieta, there is no plan at this time to permit residents to rent a section for their individual production, Parker said. But such a component could be added to the program later if the senior group desires, he said.

“It could go in that direction of they want,” he said. 

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