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A Community Harvest

As summertime wanes and autumn creeps in, pay a visit to El Segundo’s Community Garden before the colorful growth has receded.

By Maureen Kingsley with photos and captions by Linda Marten

Adjacent to the Joslyn Center and just east of Stevenson Field in El Segundo’s Recreation Park sits the city’s community garden, a tidy square of about 22 individual garden plots shaded by The Freedom Tree (dedicated in 1972 to Lieutenant Colonel Robert Barnett and all prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action) and tended by members of the community. Each plot is roughly six feet long by three feet wide, bordered by cinder blocks, with about two feet between each plot. Local gardeners are chosen by lottery, and those assigned a plot can tend it for two years before it’s time to relinquish their spots or submit their names to the next lottery for another two-year assignment.

vibrant pink, red, and white flowers in a community garden plot
In this plot, Judy Lee planted flowers and plants that would grow well under the shade of the tall pine tree, The Freedom Tree, in the garden. July 2021

This summer the garden boasted an explosion of color and a banquet of harvestable produce, thanks largely to the efforts of three dedicated gardeners: Sue Bartlett, Judy Lee, and Linda Marten, each of whom tends a plot of their own but also works diligently to maintain the whole space and offer a helping hand to their fellow gardeners during their once- and sometimes twice-daily visits.

a fat zucchini is barely visible among glossy green leaves in a garden plot
Can you find what's hidden here? It's one of many zucchini Judy grew and gave away to lucky friends and family. July 2021

“This summer, the garden is full of cucumbers, kale, green onions, eggplant, and marigold,” says Linda, who credits much of this success to her friends and fellow gardeners Sue and Judy. “Judy taught Sue and me a lot about making a healthy, productive garden. Her homemade compost does wonders! One gardener, Shane, said the gardens are the best he’s seen in the eight years he’s been gardening here. And most—if not all—of that is thanks to Judy, who is from Taiwan. She says she herself learned most of what she knows of gardening on Chinese YouTube.”

A long, thin, purple Chinese eggplant hangs from a stalk surrounded by green leaves
This baby eggplant is a Chinese variety that grows long and thin. It contains fewer seeds than the American egg-shaped variety and thus tastes less bitter. It's great for stir-frying! From Linda Marten's garden plot, July 2021

The community garden offers a hands-on education to passers-by, too. “It’s instructive,” Sue says. “Families come to visit and show their kids what’s growing. We share knowledge and joy with visitors.”

Two women work in the community garden amidst bright, colorful flowers and lush, green foliage
Judy Lee and Sue Bartlett working in the garden, as they do every day. Judy is smiling here, proud of her lovely zinnias in full bloom and many healthy plants. Sue works to remove old plants and invasive fennel. July 2021

“It’s an affirmation of life to grow things,” Linda adds. “It fills a need.”

About half a dozen sunflowers stand 3 to 4 feet high in a community garden plot.
Judy Lee and Sue Bartlett planted many sunflowers that brought a happiness to the garden with their bright yellow petals. But nothing lasts forever. The squirrels liked the flowers, too, and enjoyed a big meal of sunflower seeds. (Judy wasn't happy about that, but she knows squirrels need to eat. Plants are not only for humans to enjoy.)

Those interested in submitting their names for the next garden-plot lottery can contact Ryan Delgado, Recreation Supervisor Joslyn Center, Adult/Senior Programs, Transportation and Events.

Left: A close-up of one of the colorful zinnias Judy planted. The zinnias make up a beautiful, tall centerpiece in the garden, and they were all planted from seed. Right: Judy's delicious tomatoes in July, a reward after lots of work in the garden.

This story appears in the September 2021 issue of The El Segundo Scene.

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