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Meet the gardeners: Cordelia Martinez & Steve Gross

As you walk into the garden from the gate at Anteater Drive you are likely to see a lady’s bicycle propped against the fence. Many of you will recognize the cyclist as Cordelia Martinez, proprietor of garden plots 51 & 52 Peony Lane. She and her husband Steve Gross joined AVCG in its former Arroyo Vista location over a decade ago, when their son Samuel was only three years old. As a veteran garden member, Cordelia kindly shared her family’s story with Meet the Gardeners editor Marie Connors. Look for Cordelia’s Gazpacho Recipe on our Favorite Recipes web page.

For me gardening is a necessity of life, and I’ve been fortunate to live in many places where I could garden: A small farm-sized one in New Jersey, front lawn raised beds and terra cotta pots in Texas, and a big backyard garden in Santa Ana when we first relocated to California. Steve is on the faculty at UCI, and when we moved to University Hills our house didn’t realoly have hte space or sunlight for a vegetable agarden; my toddler was already addicted to tomatoes off the vine, and we were new in town and wanted to meet the neighbors. Back then it was easy to get a plot, and we werre able to get started quickly.

My early AVCG gardens were very child-friendly. My friends and I took our kids over there in the afternoon and worked while they played. It’s wonderful to see that story play out over and over again as new families with little ones join the garden. Back then, we grew novel things, tried to grow pumpkins, tried to make cute little landscapes and did lots of trial-by-error learning. We grew potatoes all the time then, probably because they are easy and the kids enjoy digging them up so much.

Every year now we grow Swiss chard—red, pink, green, and yellow—because we all like it and it’s so reliable. The last couple of years we’ve grown Spanish Padron peppers; they’re like Japanese shishitos but more reliably mild in my experience. We always try to grow cucumbers; sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. In the winter we grow lettuce until it gets too hot for it. We experimented with berries and grapes, but anything that cuts down on tomato real estate goes.

Fortunately, we have a dehydrator, which comes in handy during especially abundant tomato seasons. When there are just too many tomatoes, like there were at the end of last year, we just pop them in freezer bags. We can tomatoes and pizza sauce in the summer, and use the more past type tomatoes in pa amb tomaquet (Catalan tomato and bread) constantly, but mostly, we drink gallons of gazpacho.

Pests like gophers and birds are discouraging, as is the occasional blight or bug infestation. Some years we do everything right, and pfft. Others, we forget this or that, and still things work out. Over the long haul, it’s a plus. Always. We plan to keep experimenting with new plants and new varieties. This year we moved some of the raised beds around to make room for fruit trees in pots. We have a Satsuma mandarin, and Australian finger lime, and an apple free. Wish us luck!

Cordelia Martinez and family


CAQMD Electric Lawn Mower Rebate Program

Hi everyone,

The South Coast Air Quality Management District has a new year-round Electric Lawn Mower Rebate Program. You will be able to purchase a new cordless electric lawn mower at any retail center or online. Rebates range from $150 to $250 depending on the purchase price of the lawn mower. Eligibility is open to residents of South Coast AQMD’s jurisdiction.

Go to this website or download the flyer below for more details.

Rebate Flyer

History of AVCG

A Brief History of Community Gardening on the UCI Campus


By Char and Tim Bradley


The original community garden, located at the corner of Campus Drive and University Drive, was started as part of a horticultural class taught by Professor Joe Arditti, from the School of Biological Sciences.  When the class was not being taught, other interested people on campus worked the plots.  Eventually, the horticulture class was not offered and the garden became a community garden.


In 1999 the campus decided to expand Mesa Court freshman housing, which meant our garden would become a parking lot.  Luckily, Jim Craig, the Director of Student Housing, allowed us to relocate to a space near Arroyo Vista Housing.  There we established 100 garden plots, each 12′ by 16′ in size.  At this time the University required us to be a registered campus club. So we organized as Arroyo Vista Community Garden.


Unexpected funding became available to the University to build additional undergraduate housing.  This resulted in our garden being relocated again in 2008.  The University was very accommodating in building the garden at the current site next to Palo Verde Graduate Housing.  This site has 99 plots, each one measuring 12′ by 16′.  As part of this move, which required modifying our Constitution and Bylaws, the club officers and members-at-large decided to guarantee a minimum of 10 plots to current UCI students. We retained our initials (AVCG) but changed the name to Anteater Village Community Garden.


Due to the visibility of our garden at this site along Anteater Drive, we immediately acquired a waiting list for plots.  For the last several years the waiting list has remained at about 100 people and unfortunately it takes about three years to reach the top of the list.  Students sometimes move up the waitlist more quickly due to the guarantee of a minimum of 10 plots to current UCI students.


The Anthill Village Community Garden is the only true community garden at UCI.  We have nearly 190 members, 40% of whom are alums, retirees and other residents from the surrounding community, 60% of whom are affiliated with UCI as current students, faculty, staff, alumni or retirees.


The University has designated land that can be used by the AVCG Club.  Our use of this land is at the discretion of the University.  A community garden on the campus is not guaranteed.  However, we know the University is supportive of our efforts and seeks to encourage sustainability activities.  Our current location is on an earthquake fault (east – west) and has a very large water main going under the garden (north – south) that serves graduate housing and University Hills.  So we are hopeful that this location will be continuously available to the club for many years to come.


The University requires that our plots be continuously worked so that the garden remains attractive.  Our club has chosen to establish crews that work to keep the club functioning well.  All members are expected to volunteer a minimum of 12 hours per year.  This plan has been working well for several years.  The University requires that two of the three officers be current UCI faculty, staff or students.  This is probably the most challenging requirement. Although alums and retirees are a vital part of the club, less than one-third of our members are current UCI faculty, staff or students.


Community gardens are increasingly important as housing becomes more and more dense, often without sufficient land to grow anything.  Additionally, community gardens help people to grow more of what they eat, provide a sustainable environment, and encourage collaboration amongst people who enjoy growing plants.  Our Events Crew organizes several activities each year that are open to our club members and their families.  Lastly, we want to mention that many members of the local UCI community, including visiting family and young children, frequently and regularly walk through the garden just to enjoy looking at what gardeners are growing.


Editor’s Note:

Char and Tim Bradley joined the community garden about 25 years ago and took part in the club organization as it was at that time.  Due to their roles at UCI (Char was University Registrar and Tim was a professor and Chair of the Academic Senate in 2007-08), they were positioned to help represent the goals of the garden during this critical period of transition. They both have been officers and members of the club’s steering committee for many years. Thank you Char and Tim!

–Marie Connors, Feb. 11, 2017