Lazaro Morales prefers to water and tend his Echo Park garden at night. Not only is it cooler but there’s less of a chance that he will get hit by car while watering his radishes and green beans. The garden grows only inches away from the street in the steeply sloped median strip that divides Lilac Terrace, leaving Morales, a 48-year-old construction worker, to stand in the street for most of the time while watering and weeding. At night, when there is less traffic, Morales runs a hose from his house across the street to water his crops. Despite the risks of gardening in a median strip, littered with broken beer bottles, Morales’ garden and a neighbor’s adjoining patch – featuring a tiny corn field – seem to be thriving. Some passersby have helped themselves to the curbside crops. That’s okay with Morales, who understands that people need to eat. “It’s not a problem. It’s food.”
Morales’ home has a tiny yard, most of it too shady to grow crops. So, last year, Morales followed the lead of a neighbor who began farming the median strip about three years ago. Morales prefers plants – such as radishes, cilantro and green beans – that grow quickly. The neighbor seems to favor more slower growing foods – such as corn and Swiss Chard – as well as flowers and other non edibles.
The median strip farmers help each other out. Morales shares some of the plant food he buys at Home Depot. The other gardener will come by and sweep the curb near Morales’ radish patch. Both gardeners love to recycle, reusing everything from wall board to police caution tape and old tree stumps.
With little construction work around, Morales spends more time tending to his patch. “I have time for this. It calms me down.”
Earlier this month, Morales planted the second and final crop of the season. A single row of green beans grows down the middle of a narrow field of tiny radish leaves. He invited The Eastsider to return for the harvest. “In two weeks, you will see radishes you can take home with you.”