Tucked away within a dry oak woodland on Santa Teresa Boulevard, right across the street from Martin Murphy Middle School, sits a serene, growing community garden. Run entirely by volunteers on land owned by St Stephen’s in-the-Field Episcopal Church, the 37 bed community garden plays host to a colorful and vibrant community.
Since the early 1990s, elder residents from nearby apartments have used the beds at this garden to grow 青葱 (
qing cong, green onions), 蚕(蠶)豆 (
cándòu, fava beans), and a variety of other fruits and vegetables. Most of the elder gardeners are Mandarin speaking, a fact that is honored by having all of the beds numbered in both English and Chinese.
In the last 6 months, volunteers have built 15 new beds and plan to have 15 more in place by the end of 2020, bringing the total number of beds to 52. Most beds are 5×10, though there are a few half-sized 5×5 spaces for those who wish to tend a smaller area. Because many of the gardeners are on fixed incomes, all beds are rented annually on a sliding scale that runs from $0 to $50.
Donated Items Are Very Much Appreciated
Nearly everything in the garden has been donated, including lumber from Good News Wood Salvation in Morgan Hill, fence boards from old fencing at the homes of parishioners, woodchips used between the beds obtained from a local arborist, and a good deal of ongoing maintenance provided by adult transitional students from Calero High School. Parishioner Janet Thorsrud has arranged for water lines to be run out to each bed. Parishioner Jessica Dickinson Goodman and gardener Arike van de Water have worked tirelessly since December of 2019 to transform the garden space, putting in 10+ hours most weeks; they often show up around sunrise and work until midday building new beds, planting California natives on the grounds, and restoring neglected grape vines and apricot, plum, peach and loquat trees.
If you happen to have extra gloves, shovels, hammers, nails, rocks, pavers, or cardboard boxes, the gardeners would be happy to come and pick them up from you at your convenience.
The St Stephen’s Site
The community garden is the beating heart of the St Stephen’s grounds, but the two acre campus has a number of other beautiful spaces to explore. There’s a shady bower beneath a coast live oak, a picnic table made from reclaimed wood, a children’s garden filled with touchable herbs, a Thunderdome bed of California natives, and a nursery bed full of hundreds of California native grass seedlings, grown from seed obtained from Larner Seeds. There is a bed of California native strawberries and a growing elderberry bush from the most recent Grassroots Ecology native plant sale. Gardeners have lots of extra seeds and seedlings to trade, so do reach out if you’re interested.
In 2020 the gardeners hope to begin turning the sloping field on the Santa Teresa Boulevard side into a waving mosaic of native grasses. The vision has the group seeking bids to pour concrete for an elder friendly access labyrinth, in hopes of transforming the entire campus into a bird, insect, and lizard-friendly California native garden with a productive and friendly community garden at its center.
Getting to St Stephen’s in-the-Field Community Garden
The garden site is very easy to get to.
St Stephens in-the-Field community garden is located in southeastern San Jos? on Santa Teresa Boulevard south of Bernal Road and just prior to Coyote Valley. Heading south on Santa Teresa Boulevard, turn right onto Avenida Espana, turn right into the first parking lot, and drive past the Lutheran Church all the way to the end of the drive, where you will find Saint Stephen?s and the massive oak tree. The little fenced area at the corner of the property contains St Stephen’s in-the-Field community garden.
How To Obtain a Garden Bed
A garden bed can be secured with a donation to St Stephen’s in-the-Field, the San Jos? church that owns the land. The financial donation, up to $50 per year, is used to cover water expenses. To sign up for a plot, either email Jane at the church office or better yet stop on in to say “hi”. The church office is open from 8:30am to 1pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and the address is as follows: St Stephens in-the-Field Episcopal Church, 7269 Santa Teresa Blvd, San Jos?, CA 95139. The office can be reached by calling (408) 629-1836. Garden manager Jessica is also available to answer any questions; she can be reached at (650) 804-9044.
Volunteering at the Garden
If you’re interested in joining other passionate gardeners and getting your hands dirty, stop on in to speak with Jessica and Arike. The two can be found working in the garden most Sundays from 1pm to 5pm and most Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7am to noon. Current projects include things like planting native sprouts (raised from seed) into the Thunderdome bed, building raised planters for Milkweed plants, and pruning two beautiful old growth peach trees. Folks who plan to stop in are asked to contact garden manager Jessica ahead of their visit, either by way of a text message to (650) 804-9044 or an email message.
LikeSalvia melliferaJessica Dickinson Goodmanis a Bay Area native and a fan of purple. She’s written short stories, poems, and essays published in theOakland Review, Geek Out, Hashtag Queer,and writes a weekly sonnet on the community garden for the St Stephen’s in-the-Fields Friday Journal. She graduated with a BS from Carnegie Mellon University and has traveled to a third of the Middle East with her friends from the US State Department’s TechWomen program.