With Santa Monica community garden plots taken, some people learn to share

With Santa Monica community garden plots taken, some people learn to share

Ellu Nasser, a farmer's daughter from Oregon, moved here five years ago and has been on a waiting list to get into Santa Monica's Main Street Community Garden since then. About a year ago, she signed up for the Santa Monica Garden Share program instead, which matches willing homeowner with landless gardener -- an arrangement that has worked well in Britain, where the idea originated, and in the Pacific Northwest.

In Santa Monica, the program has been a harder sell. People are hesitant of strangers coming into their yards, says Madeline Ashcroft, 77, who teamed with Nasser to be the first match in the program. "It's a natural hesitation," Ashcroft said, adding that homeowners think, "This is my castle."

Ashcroft has lived in the same house for 43 years. She grew up in Bristol, England, and always had relied upon a garden for fresh produce. Her son was a soils major at Humboldt State and set up compost and worm bins in the backyard of the 50-by-160-foot lot years ago, before local garden stores carried them. When turning the compost pile became a burden, she started looking for some help and saw a newspaper article about the garden share program. It sounded mutually beneficial: She got the strong back, while Nasser got a plot of land to tend.

"I really wanted to compost," Nasser said. "I had waited and waited, and when I got a call from the city, I was so excited. I'm sure it's weird to have someone come onto her property. It's a big responsibility. I want to make sure that I meet her expectations. It's been a really sweet thing, for both of us, I think."


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