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YOLO COUNTY NEWS
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Central Park Gardens hum with activity in the fall

Emily Griswold, chairman and founder of the Central Park Gardens steering committee, points out a wooden bee box installed in the garden downtown by a UC Davis entomology student. The boxes attract solitary, independent bees, Griswold says. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

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From page A5 | September 20, 2012 |

Learn more

What: Vegetable garden workshop presented by Yolo County Master Gardeners

When: 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 29

Where: Central Park Gardens, B Street between Third and Fourth streets

Admission: Free

The interactive and educational demonstration gardens of Davis’ Central Park have stimulated the senses and awakened the creativity of gardeners for years — helping novice and green-thumbed gardeners turn their yards into sustainable havens filled with flowering aromas and food.

The fall planting season will kick off the Central Park Garden’s monthly workshops with a vegetable garden workshop at 9 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 29, on B Street between Third and Fourth streets, demonstrating starting seeds, and planting a variety of fall vegetables such as broccoli, beets, carrots, cabbage and cauliflower.

According to Emily Griswold, chair and founder of the gardens steering committee, Yolo County offers year-round vegetable harvests. The workshop also covers what is appropriate to grow in the fall, how to prepare soil for spring and summer plantings and integrated pest management.

“We are trying to model different aspects of sustainable gardening,” said Griswold, who won the Davis Environmental Recognition Award in 2008 for her public service in spearheading the demonstration garden in 2006.

“She (Griswold) has been the guiding force and vision behind the garden,” said city of Davis park supervisor Sandy Dietrich.

The gardens grew from a collaborative effort between the city of Davis and community organizations like the Davis Farm to School Connection and many others. A small volunteer army of plant-wise Yolo County Master Gardeners maintain and use the gardens as a classroom to teach science-based information with several year-round learning opportunities and sensible alternatives to the thirsty California lawn.

“The fall is the best time to take out the lawn,” said Peg Smith, a volunteer Master Gardener on the garden’s steering committee who is organizing the vegetable garden workshop.

Coordinated workdays hosted during the Davis Farmers Market draw people to the gardens where they learn a variety of gardening techniques from these experts.

“Because of our connection to the Farmers Market, we have an edible theme that goes on here,” said Griswold, whose day job as director of gateways, horticulture and teaching gardens at the UC Davis Arboretum has her overseeing more than 100 acres of campus gardens. “It’s a fun time to be in the park because there is so much energy. How often do you get to garden to live music?”

Even when a Master Gardener isn’t present, decorative informational kiosks and installation art pieces mimic the biodiversity of the landscape and educate visitors on the multiple ways to turn their outdoor spaces at home into an opportunity to grow their own food, conserve water, or make their own fragrant oasis to support a variety pollinating insects and birds.

“The idea with this garden is that you can have all kinds of beautiful flowers that can support this great diversity of pollinators — to have this garden that is alive and buzzing with all these creatures was the goal,” said Griswold as hummingbirds and bees whirled haphazardly from plant to plant behind her.

Wooden bee boxes and interpretative signs, installed by a UCD entomology student, are tucked into the foliage hosting solitary native bees.

Other installations like fences, planter boxes, paths, edging, labels and interpretive signs were all assembled at the garden through community donations and organizations like the Sunrise Rotary Club, Alpha Phi Omega, the UCD Civil Engineering Group, Boy Scouts and church groups.

“They (Central Park Gardens) work hand in hand with many things,” said Lisa Buckman, a Davis police service specialist and VIP coordinator, who has worked with Griswold as a liaison between the city of Davis and the gardens for several years. “Emily is just a wonderful director.”

Before the gardens got their start, Griswold used to join her husband in Central Park when he was involved with a Scrabble club. Back then, the gardens were dreary and in need of help.

“You know somebody should really do something with that garden area!” Griswold laughs as she reflects on her naivete about how much work it would take to revitalize the gardens. “I realized that I’m the type of person to get that project started.”

Griswold went to the city and formed a steering committee of volunteers who were interested in sharing the responsibilities of developing and maintaining the gardens to keep it thriving. She even secured grants for various projects, including a grant from the city for many of the installation art pieces.

“It is a wonderful partnership between the city of Davis and volunteers who work there to make it a beautiful destination,” Dietrich said. “I know a lot of people who plan trips just to see the Central Park Gardens. It is a beautiful place to visit.”

Today, seven themed areas make up the gardens — rose and flower, sensory, meadow, California natives, water-wise, beneficial insect habitat and vegetable gardens.

The gardens demonstrate that roses, or even native plants, do not need to be sequestered into their own “plant ghettos.” Intermixing ornamental and native plants, as well as edible herbs and vegetables, gives gardens a variety of textures that are visually stunning and fragrant.

Other sustainable skills taught include companion planting (planting plants in proximity to each other to assist in nutrient uptake, pollination and pest control by attracting insects that eat aphids and other pests without the use of pesticides), elimination of artificial fertilizers and making use of microclimates within the garden.

A plant, seed and winter vegetable fundraiser will take place Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Central Park Gardens’ annual open house held in conjunction with the Davis Farmers Market Fall Festival. Many of the plants for sale were propagated from the existing flora in the garden.

Each of the seven gardens and an educational booth will be staffed by Master Gardeners who will answer questions.  There will be activities for children and the resident “Bellapede,” a giant Monarch butterfly caterpillar sculpture with puckered red lips and seven pairs of shoes and socks that kids love.

“It’s kind of become a mascot of the city,” Griswold laughs.

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Matthew Blackburn

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