Let’s Build a Garden!
By Nora Downs
I walk into the West Oakland Health Center parking lot and see a really pretty painted truck full of compost. A lot of compost. I take a better look around and see representatives from two Building Blocks Collaborative Organizations, Food to Families (F2F) Mini-grantee City Slicker Farms and F2F Partner West Oakland Health Center, working together to build a garden where some bushes used to be. WOHC staff talk about other plans for after the garden beds are built and the fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers begin to grow—they could paint the sides of the beds, add gravel, and maybe even a bench! In the future, they might get rid of all the bushes and surround the parking lot with raised beds upon raised beds of growing vegetables!
But before we can start gardening in the traditional sense—planting plants—we have to build the beds. Before they arrived at WOHC this morning Allison, Melissa, and other City Slicker Farms crew members made the trellises and prepared the sides of the raised beds. I ask Melissa if the trellises are for peas. She says that they could be, but that’s not the reason the City Slicker Farms adds them to every garden box. The trellises will allow plants to grow vertically, so that the gardeners at WOHC can use every space possible. High-density gardening she calls it.
Norma Mason of WOHC and one of her coworkers, Clinton, drill the sides together and a few minutes later, tadaaaah! Beds are built. We move the beds in to the garden area and we begin filling them with a lot of compost and some soil.
While a volunteer and I hop into the truck and start filling wheelbarrows with compost and getting delightfully dirty in the process, Dr. Cooper, Executive Director of WOHC arrives. He takes a look around, then he and some staff start to dig a hole for a lime tree. They turn out to be a speedy team because before we can even finish filling the boxes, Dr. Cooper and his team have already planted and watered the tree.
Once the raised beds are full of compost and soil, planting begins. De Linda Horton and Norma select which fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs they want to plant in their budding garden. Things like Swiss Chard, Summer Squash, Sunflowers and Italian Basil! Even though the beds are already chock-full of good stuff, they’re not quite done yet—tomatoes will be planted soon!
So the next time you pass the West Oakland Health Center, head to the back parking lot. Because beyond parked cars, you might just see some beautiful plants grow!
For more information about City Slicker Farms and the West Oakland Health Center, please visit their websites: