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Notes on the Valley

By Monith Ilavarasan

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About this blog: My parents, brother, and I moved to Pleasanton when I was in the seventh grade. I then graduated from Amador Valley High School, went to college at UC Davis and started out a career in tech. After several years working in large co...  (More)

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Back to earth

Uploaded: Mar 30, 2022


Last year, as spring rolled around, my partner had the brilliant idea of starting a garden. We had just come back from the farmers market and were marveling at how good the produce was.

We talked about how amazing it would be if we could grow fruits and vegetables right near us so we could have fresh produce whenever we wanted. I could already picture twisting a tomato off the vine to throw in a homemade marinara sauce or curry.

The only problem was that we lived in a one-bedroom apartment and our yard consisted of a few succulents nestled together right outside our doorway. When reality finally hit, I was defeated while my partner was not. She was tired of limiting her green thumb potential on our succulents, and wanted to try out her luck on fertile California soil.

She looked around for ways to dip our toes into gardening and discovered Fertile Groundworks in Livermore. Located in a patch of land right next to Asbury Methodist Church, this nonprofit focuses on growing fruits and vegetables year-round to serve the community and is a chief provider of fresh fruit and vegetables to local food pantries.

She signed both of us up to volunteer on an evening and we were off. We were instantly put to work getting seedlings ready in a greenhouse. We went once more and I grew to love the feeling of soil on my hands and the idea that I was doing something useful.

After the experience at Fertile Groundworks, I was on board with my partner's gardening plan. There had to be some way we could make this work.

I called up my mom and told her about our newfound interest in gardening. I could feel her excitement through the phone. My mom had always loved gardening, but had never had the space to really get into it.

My dad wasn’t much help as he was opposed to gardening on principle. He grew up on a farm and basically studied math so he never had to pull another crop again.

With two eager helping hands, my mom made a plan for us to grow produce on her tiny plot of cement in the backyard and driveway. We got some big storage containers, and drilled a bunch of holes in them. We anxiously awaited the soil drops at Costco so we could get some fresh potting soil to fill the containers.

We got healthy plants at the nursery and harvested some seeds from Indian vegetables we got at New India Bazaar. My mom collected banana peels, coffee grounds, and egg shells to make homemade fertilizer. We finally got everything together and started planting.

A month went by and we started seeing the first flat beans come up. We hit a few struggles and reached out to a few master gardeners through the Pleasanton library and UC Davis,my alma mater (go Ags!), who provided us with great advice. Even my dad came around and volunteered to be in charge of watering the plants in the evening, given the Warriors weren’t playing.

Over the next few summer months we worked the planter garden and harvested large amounts of tomatoes, chilis, snake gourd, basil, and of course flat beans.

This experience with gardening motivated us to look for more opportunities in our own home on a smaller scale. So we started a herb garden and upped our house plant game to include some big old elephant ears and a money tree.

As spring rolls around once again we are planting some new additions to the herb garden and keeping a lookout for some exciting houseplants. Knowing she has some workers on standby, my mom’s thinking through grander ideas for her potted garden.
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 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jennifer, a resident of Danville,
on Mar 31, 2022 at 2:23 pm

Jennifer is a registered user.

Gardening is fun!


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