A community garden comes back to life in East Campus

Pumpkins, flowers and plants of Yorktown Community Garden - Photo by Adrienn Mendonca-Jones

Yorktown Garden | Photo by Adrienn Mendonca-Jones

November 1, 2022

By Adrienn Mendonça-Jones

Just in time for harvest season, a community garden located off Yorktown Court in Frederick Park I has blossomed under the care and guidance of students and residents. 

Kimberly Wilson and Robert Savala, both East Campus residents, are also a married couple; Wilson is a former student and Savala is a social and behavioral science major at CSUMB.

They spend their spare time amongst the wandering vines of large orange pumpkins, and watch as crows stop by to peck at some of the organic vegetables. 

“My husband and I started working in the garden around June of this year, and we knew in our future that we wanted to have a garden big enough to sustain our family,” said Wilson. They share the garden’s bounty with nearby students and families. 

Wilson traces her interest in community gardening to her previous work with the campus’ Basic Needs Initiative, which connects students with fresh food resources, among other things. 

At the Yorktown Garden, a round plot of land in the middle of a cul de sac, dainty yellow squash trail out toward the central walkway which meanders the length of the community garden, where sections of once-barren land have been subdivided out into 25 garden plots, some of them now thriving, some still available for new gardeners. 

A lone sunflower stands sentry nearby, the weight of its head bobbing over in the breeze as its fallen brethren lay nearby on the ground, drying out in the sun. 

The garden was founded with a spirit of campus support alongside donations from the wider community, including compost bins from Greenwaste and a large picnic table crafted and donated by PMC Construction. 

It now sits under a pergola, created by Greystar’s team, where residents can hang out at the picnic table or work their garden plots, which contain a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, flowers, and native plants. Attention to the life of the garden has ebbed and flowed over the years. 

"A lot of East Campus students took up gardening during the pandemic, but of course as life returned to normal I think it was difficult for them to keep up," said Amy Zamara, residential life coordinator for East Campus. "As a former RA and now RLC, I have seen the garden thrive and struggle over the years. Many resident advisors have hosted events at the garden in an attempt to spur continued interest."

While other students have shown interest in community gardening, and even started their own plots, it’s Wilson and Savala who keep the garden going. Among her tips and tricks: putting gopher wire around plants and seedlings to protect the roots, checking daily for pests, water needs and weeds, and using natural compost or worm castings to enrich Marina’s sandy soil. 

“I’d say on average I spend about 15 hours in the garden per week,” said Wilson, who can be found there most days, rain or shine, and enjoys having a purpose and reason to be outside two to three hours a day.

“Most of that time is spent pulling weeds, watering, and doing any other maintenance that needs to be done, such as rolling up the hoses and reorganizing our shovels and tools.”

A few shovels and donated compost bins stand at the ready to help amend the sandy soil typical of the former Fort Ord area, where rifles once fired on practice ranges and signage on popular bike paths alerts visitors of potential unexploded ordnance. 

The garden represents not only a wildlife-urban interface, but also an ongoing project between CSUMB’s departments of Student Housing and Residential Life, Parks and Development, and property management company Greystar.

Leon Hrabik, the general manager for Greystar, helped establish the garden over 12 years ago. 

A native of Moss Landing, Hrabik sees the garden as a natural bridge between residents and animals in the surrounding environment. 

“I once witnessed a big buck chomping away at the corn,” said Hrabik, who cites a nearby area known as Coyote Valley, well-known bobcat trails and even a rare black bear sighting among the many ways wildlife intersects with residential life on East Campus. He sees the garden and wider residential community similar to a state or national park like Yosemite.

“We’re fortunate to be living in this great place,” he said, “and we try to keep it preserved. It’s a great place to watch the birds fly.”

Yorktown Community Garden is accepting donations in the form of two or more garden hoses, ready-to-use compost and/or worm castings, garden hoes or other manual weeding tools, plant and seed donations, including edible plants. 

Donations can be made through the Student Housing and Residential Life Department, dropped off at the Saratoga Community Center (2802 Saratoga Court) or by contacting Amy Zamara to schedule a specific time. Students can also contact her to sign up for a plot in the Yorktown Community Garden