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Gardening in Yreka: Bringing the Community Together

When it comes to smaller communities like Yreka, there always seems to be some medium that brings people together. In this case, it just so happens that Yreka has a very active gardening community. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to help with the Spring Mother’s Day plant sale. I was able to learn quite a bit about what the local community garden is all about.

Yreka is in far northern California along Interstate 5, about 20 miles from the Oregon border. It straddles the boundary between coastal coniferous forests and high desert climatic zones. To partner with the City of Yreka and other environmental organizations undertaking habitat conservation and restoration, the not-for-profit Siskiyou Gardens, Parks, and Greenways Association (SGPGA) was created in 2007. The SGPGA is comprised of four programs, each focusing on specific environmental initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life for the citizens of Yreka. These four include:

  • Yreka Community Garden

  • Siskiyou Arboretum/Native Plant Nursery

  • Yreka Creek Greenway

  • Friends of Greenhorn Park

The May 13, 2023, plant sale I assisted with was a collaborative event organized by the Yreka Community Garden. Preparations for the plant sale started in February when vegetables, fruits, and native plants were germinated and tended to in a large greenhouse that was constructed by the Yreka High School's metal workshop in the 1990s. The high school has allowed the community garden to use the greenhouse since 2008. Seed germination and growth of more than 100 plant varieties, including vegetables, fruits, ornamentals, and perennials, was timed so that all the potted plants were large enough to safely sell to the public on Mother's Day weekend. Instructions about how to "harden"(i.e., ease the transition to growing outdoors) the seedlings before out-planting were also provided to each person who bought the seedlings. All vegetables and fruits sold were reasonably priced, at around $2 each, while perennials sold for between $2 and $4 each. As a non-profit organization, SGPGA is in the plant sale business to encourage community members to garden at home - so that they consume more food than they grow themselves.

Figure 1: Yreka Community Gardens - Spring Mother's Day Plant Sale.

Figure 2: Yreka Community Gardens - Spring Mother's Day Plant Sale (Juvenile Cauliflower and Cabbage).

Outside of these larger-scale public events, the Yreka Community Garden also has ongoing activities around the year. Over 40 garden plots are available for between $25-$45 per plot per year to community residents. Aside from ample space to cultivate crops, the garden provides tools and amenities available to any would-be gardeners. If newcomers find themselves lost on what to plant in their plot, there is a collection of spare seeds other gardeners have donated for anyone to use. Also, compost is available to all plot holders and is maintained through collaborative efforts. The compost piles are a collection of dead plant material, fallen tree leaves, and horse manure donated by local landowners. Any flowering plants will get pollinated trouble-free, due to the nearby beehive maintained by the Siskiyou Beekeepers Association.

Figure 3: Yreka Community Gardens – Greenhouse.

Figure 4: Yreka Community Gardens - Compost Piles.

Figure 5: Yreka Community Gardens - Beehive.

Garden plot holders are encouraged to donate any excess food they produce to one of the four food banks operating in Yreka. Each of these food banks has approximately 50-60 clients who receive food bags regularly.

Apart from annual plot fees and proceeds from the annual plant sale, the Community Garden has received several grants over the past 15 years. These grants have supported the creation of a sensory garden for the disabled, a children's garden, and a butterfly garden. If or when you pass through Yreka on Interstate 5, please stop by the Yreka Community Garden any time during daylight hours. It is located at 433 Knapp Street, Yreka, CA.

Figure 6: Yreka Community Garden - Songbird Garden.

Figure 7: Yreka Community Garden - Sensory Garden.

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