Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The VA Garden

perhaps my favoritest place in long beach. it has a very special place in my heart...and until now only a handful of people knew about it...but its too good a secret to keep...too good!

we live across the street from the VA hospital. 2 1/2 years ago or so we were exploring our new neighborhood and ventured out of the park estates and found a dirt trail at the end of the VA grounds. we decided to try it out to see where it led - perhaps to the college? perhaps it turned into a trail? well even ended at this AMAZING garden. i mean - the most diverse, well kept, huge garden. we felt like we were trespassing...i guess we were...we couldn't see anyone there and then walking around was an older man...we have come to know - Jim (I believe his last name is Bradford, but not 100%) who is in charge of the garden..."are we allowed to be here?" was the first thing we asked and a smile and an "of course" was what we received in return. He explained that this was the patient's garden...that the Vets maintain it as a part of therapy and also the kitchen uses the *very bountiful* produce.

(I believe the L.A. VA hospital also has a garden and I believe they sell the produce as well and have a huge market in the local restaurants....but I never have asked Jim)

He also told us that the produce and plants were for sale. At that time we had just started planting our first garden and he spent about a half hour with us explaining how to plant in Long Beach - what we will have the most success with - sold us some starter plants - told us we could have the compost for free - just pull our truck on up!

All of their produce is organically grown (evidenced by the spider that came home with our chard :) and not only do the Vets help with the tending, so do aspiring horticulturalists from CSULB and Long Beach City College...who have been tremendous help each time we have come. They spend so much time walking you through - helping you pick out whatever you need. plus let me just tell you about prices! produce - $1 per ziplock bag full of amazing veggies and fruit - 2 cucumbers for $1 - a huge bunch of chard for $1 - 2 heirloom tomatoes for $1 - a flat of flowers (16) for $5. Tomato plants $1. I could go on...we always try to contain ourselves when we go, but its difficult!

They are open in the mornings until 11:00a.m. - I can't recall if they are open during weekends or not...they must "close" but not sure - why am i not sure? because there is no website or phone # or really anything that i know of to double could probably try calling the VA hospital itself...but why would anyone voluntarily call the VA? i mean really?

Bryson loves it there - there are so many different types of trees and plants we have a lot of fun playing "guess the plant" he is getting good at it i must say! his favorite part was the HUGE pumpkin they are growing for a contest. it is only a couple months old and already ginormous! we didnt know it but he picked up a jalapeno pepper from the ground and took it home with us and started eating it along the picky pants eater was eating a raw jalapeno and liked it! whatever...

The garden is located in the very back North East corner of the property...and we found out today that one of their warehouses used to be the brig for the Navy base it was at one point in history during the second world war. The whole garden is extremely well cared for - they have art from the Vets sprinkled throughout and memorial gardens through it as well. and although it always seems like we shouldn't be there because it is so hidden...we are always greeted with smiles and "did you see....?"s

so i hope i convinced you to go...its difficult to park close-by by car....but try to park as close to the water towers as possible. of course i would be willing to accompany you if you must pull my leg! happy gardening!

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