TEA in Ojai

Cali in her magical Edible Apartment garden, which used to be a parking lot.

Cali in her magical Edible Apartment garden, which used to be a parking lot.

When I'm not working or tending my own TEA garden, I've decided to travel the world to document edible gardens and the wonderful people who cultivate them - especially those in apartments and shared spaces.

And so we begin!

My first visit was to Ojai, CA to the garden of my beautiful friend, Cali Picc, who I met before she moved away from LA to this magical oasis.  We spent most of the day together, working on a farm in the morning (in trade for veggies and other bounty) and sipping homemade iced Matcha-Elderberry tea together at her charming apartment veggie garden in the afternoon.  I asked Cali how the garden began, and what cultivating the land means to her.

Cali on her CA Garden...

JV: How long have you lived in your apartment?
CP: I moved to Ojai in June 2014. It's been a little over a year now, and it's absolutely incredible to see a year's progress in the garden! 

JV: Did you know right away when you moved in that you wanted an edible garden, or did it ‘come to you’ after living there?
CP: When speaking with my landlord about renting the apartment, he mentioned that I could do whatever I wanted with the rock covered parking area. I immediately went to work, planning my little would-be garden in my head, before I even knew if he would rent me the place! 

JV: What were your reasons for putting in a veggie garden? (fun, leisure, community, food, beauty?)
CP: For me, food is the answer to a lot of the problems we face today as human beings. The garden is a place for me to experience the magic of watching something grow, connect with the food that nourishes me, its a vessel for compost, a chance to save seeds, host potlucks, and challenge the idea of using land for parking! It has also evolved into a talking piece for friends, family and neighbors. I love to share and gift the food right off the vine. It’s similar to bringing a 24 pack of beer to a party where you don't know anyone! I guess what I am trying to say is it's just a great way to connect with people. 

JV: How did you approach the design?  Did you know what to do or did you figure it out as you went along?
CP: My garden went through a ton of rebirths. It was exhausting and more than a little discouraging at times. The extreme heats in Ojai, gophers, and a few excited cats got the first phase of my garden. This was of course because I did not observe the landscape and just jumped into it! I believe in trial and error though, that is how I learn best. There's only so much you can learn in a book and only so much you can plan ahead for! Just got to get out there and do it. I failed, A LOT, but at least I was failing doing something I loved. I was actually embarrassed at the sight of my garden for a long time. Since it was just me, progress was slow. I felt bad for my neighbors, who had to look at it. But in my mind's eye I saw what my garden could be and kept trying until my efforts paid off. 

JV: Did you purchase materials or find them?
CP: Found all the rocks
Mulch the dry compacted soil with hay- $10 for a bale
Built beds from rock- found
Layered bottom of bed with card board to build soil- found
Filled beds with compost (from my own pile)
Supplemented the rest with store bought bags- about 6 bags total 
Sprinkled seeds everywhere - Most I got from friends, family (my aunt used to run a nursery in Humboldt) and SLOLA (Seed Library Los Angeles).
Transplanted plants I got from my propagation class at Santa Barbara City College. A lot of those plants would be composted so I took them home to give them a second chance! The tomatoes are absolutely ridiculously happy! 

JV: How has the garden changed the way you live and also for your neighbors?
CP: The garden helps me to ground. It gives me a chance to break a sweat, enjoy the sunshine, and plenty of reasons to try new recipes. My neighbors get to marvel at the progress of the garden as we wander in and out of the cul-de-sac for our daily lives. I leave little gifts by their doors, because it is just so much for one person! They all think I am some kind of magician! We all had no idea how productive this garden would be. Its success gives us a chance to trade stories. 

JV: Any fun garden stories or advice you’d like to share?
CP: I am so grateful that I got to turn this bare land into a little food oasis. It’s helped me understand the miracle of transformation that lies with in each of us. In planting and tending to this garden, I have nourished a part of myself I never knew I could reach. ADVICE: Join SLOLA, build soil, MULCH, sprinkle seeds everywhere. Plan to be WILD. Share the bounty, no matter how small it is. But I have a feeling you will be amazed by how much you will get from your input!

Thank you Cali!!


Cali gave me a tour of Mano Farm, where she volunteers when she's not working, at school or tending her own garden.

Cali gave me a tour of Mano Farm, where she volunteers when she's not working, at school or tending her own garden.