Read more from Science and Health: A Green Understanding

This article is part of the Daily Bruin's Orientation Issue 2011 coverage. To view the entire package of articles, columns and multimedia, please visit:
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Blaine Ohigashi

The community garden at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center, growing tomatoes, grapefruit, beets, herbs and leafy vegetables, aims to encourage personal gardening.

Wooden, hand-painted signs describing the bushes and sprouts behind them are scattered throughout the soil of the garden, adding a quirky touch.

Shovels and rakes lean against a rack filled with broken eggshells and seeds, and trees with thorny branches and enormous dangling grapefruits envelope the corner plants in shade.

Though small and tucked away in the upper level of Sunset Canyon Recreation Center, the E3 ““ Ecology, Economy, Equity ““ community garden is open to the public for those who want to grow their own organic herbs and vegetables.

E3, a student organization at UCLA focused on environmental issues such as sustainability and ecological preservation, partnered with UCLA Recreation two years ago to build the garden in hopes of providing a practical method for people to learn about sustainable gardening, said Natalie Gaber, who graduated from UCLA in June with a degree in communication studies.

The garden is filled with tomatoes, grapefruit, beets, peppers, herbs, leafy vegetables and many other edibles.

“We wanted to connect people back to their roots, to be really literal, by increasing awareness of where your food comes from,” Gaber said. “It’s a very simple idea, but (it is) something we have really gotten away from, especially in urban areas.”

Anthony Passantino, a fifth-year environmental studies and geography student who is in charge of tending to the “demo garden,” said in an email that it was formed to educate interested green thumbs about the processes and incentives of personal gardens.

While most of the gardening equipment is provided by E3, visitors must bring their own compost, said Rebecca Miller, former E3 co-chair and current sustainability analyst for Housing and Hospitality Services.

Another whimsical painted sign instructs visiting gardeners on what items can be used as compost, such as recycled cardboard scraps and wood chips. Tools and various seeds were purchased through The Green Initiative Fund through ASUCLA.

Anyone is welcome to pick the produce, but those tending to the garden encourage takers to help with the workload, Passantino said.

Impromptu gardeners range from random passersby to entire floors of Hill residents, Passantino said.

The collection of plots is also host to UCLA Recreation’s gardening class, offered during spring quarter.

E3 officers have discussed the future possibility of providing produce to UCLA Dining for use in the dining halls, but plans are still in the works, Gaber said.

For now, dining employees at Housing and Hospitality Services can pick fresh herbs from the office’s private organic garden, located behind Canyon Point in Sunset Village. Still in the process of expanding, the housing garden caters to the residential restaurants on the Hill, Miller said.

The garden is not large enough to provide for every hall on a daily basis, but when there is a satisfactory yield, chefs may request herbs such as rosemary and basil, she added.