Wasteland turned into garden patch

A weedy swathe of city-owned land has been razed by dozens of volunteers and local residents and turned into a multitiered garden bed designed to help families and children connect with the earth in a neighborhood where fresh produce is hard to find.

The nonprofit Quesada Gardens Initiative — which has turned several neglected Bayview patches of dirt into blooming gardens — used volunteers, free recycled concrete and a $30,000 San Francisco Department of the Environment grant to turn a steep, narrow triangle of city-owned land into a garden bed above the Quesada Garden at Bridgeview and Newhall streets.

Construction of the garden beds is almost complete, with finishing touches scheduled for February.

“There was weeds as high as our heads, and we cleared it out twice,” group co-founder James Ross said. “The third time we were like, ‘Well, we don’t want to clear it out anymore, so we need to do something with it.’”

The 2,700-square-foot garden was planted in late winter with a mini-orchard of eight donated fruit trees, according to group horticulturalist Tony Tarket. He said space will be set aside for seasonal vegetables such as tomatoes, squash, broccoli and ethnic vegetables, all of which will be grown from seed.

“Many of the children believe fruits and vegetables come from the counter at the supermarket,” Tarket said. “They don’t even realize that they’ve got to come from the earth first.”

Bayview has only one full-service supermarket, according to the San Francisco Department of Health. A recent survey by the Southeast Food Access Working Group, an offshoot of the mayor’s Shape Up San Francisco, found that one-third of the area’s residents couldn’t buy their favorite ethnic foods, including vegetables, in their multicultural neighborhood.

University of San Francisco architecture and community design students designed the Bridgeview Garden for free.

“The main thrust was food production,” professor Seth Wachtel said. “The design solution was to create a series of tiered plantinglevels and a tiered amphitheater — a breakout space where children can sit and listen to an instructor talk about what they’re going to be doing in the garden.”

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