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Steve Lopez: Growing a garden, and a community

August 26, 2011 |  2:53 pm

Steve lopez No such thing as a free lunch?

Guess again, farmer.

Last week, when I wrote about Ron Finley’s edible garden near the Crenshaw district, Finley had one little quibble. He wished I had  mentioned that he and his partners will come to your house and help you plant your own garden for no charge, supplies and plants included.

It’s the deal of the century.

Finley, who studied gardening in a UC Cooperative Extension class taught by Florence Nishida, later hooked up with Nishida and a couple of other folks to address what they call the food desert in South Los Angeles, where healthful options are in short supply. The group is called L.A. Green Grounds.

“We try to locate people who want to grow vegetables but don’t know how,” said Nishida. “We go out and visit the property and make sure it’ll work. Does it have enough sunlight? And we want to assess the person to make sure it’s sustainable, because a garden is a lot of work.”

She has a word of caution, though. If you’re thinking they’ll come by and help you clean up a mess, forget it.

“We are not a weed abatement program.”

There’s another caveat or two:

Their primary focus is on South Los Angeles, and while they’ll bring some of the labor, you’ll be expected to recruit family and neighbors to help out.

“The idea is to develop community,” said Nishida.

And one more thing:

If they help you plant a garden, you’ll be required to pitch in on the next project.

If you saw my column on Finley, you know that his lovely and robust garden, which feeds half his neighborhood, was another case of no good deed going unpunished. He was cited by the city and ordered to remove the unpermitted garden.

But his hearing has been suspended, thanks to intervention by City Councilman Herb Wesson, who is trying to get the ordinance changed so more homeowners can plant gardens in the public space between curb and sidewalk.

If you’d like help with your own garden, go to Lagreengrounds.org for more information. And, as always, if you’ve got a beef with City Hall over a garden or anything else, this would be a good place to air your grievance.

-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Ron Finley stands by his garden. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times