Category Archives: planting bed ideas

Spiral Gardens Nursery in Berkeley

Daniel Miller, executive director of Spiral Gardens in Berkeley.

Spiral Gardens is a non-profit nursery, produce stand, and community farm located at 2850 Sacramento near Ashby Street in Berkeley. It’s been around since 1993 but it was new to me when I happened to drive by it back in April. A community treasure, it’s easily the best Bay Area nursery I’ve visited.

What makes the nursery so good is that every herb and vegetable is grown on site for our climate. The Bay Area’s unusual cool summer weather requires special varieties that big box nurseries don’t offer. The prices are affordable and the selection is huge. What other nursery has 19 varieties of tomatoes grown especially for our climate? Lettuces, beans, squash, corn, peppers, greens, carrots herbs and hard-to-find perennial vegetables that last multiple seasons such as tree collards, burdock, and cape gooseberries are offered. A plant geek’s heaven, everything is well labeled and often comes with a free history lesson. Berries and fruit trees are also sold (though not grown on site due to lengthy growing times) as well as non-edibles including natives, bee friendly and drought tolerant plants.

The experienced staff grows the plants and knows the plants. They are there to answer questions and offer advice. Volunteers are welcome to drop in anytime they are open. Monthly free workshops are listed on Facebook. Spiral Gardens also sells starts at the Saturday Berkeley Farmers Market. Excess produce grown on site is also given away to the local community seniors.

Spiral Gardens Community Food Security Project 510. 843.1307 Summer Hours: 11am to 6pm  Tues-Friday11am to 5pm Sat and Sunday

Kanchan Hunter of Spiral Gardens shows a neighbor how to transplant.

A sample of edible starts at Spiral Gardens. (clockwise from top left) corn, tree collards, tomatoes, burdock, five star lettuce mix, apples, mint and speckled lettuce

A neighbor harvests tree collards growing at the nursery.


The Tenderloin Forest and Michael Swaine

Recently I photographed Michael Swaine for Sierra Magazine. Swaine, who is known as the “Tailor of the Tenderloin” has been mending on the street for close to 15 years.  It started as a performance art piece called, “Reap What You Sew” in which he pushed a cart around the city on a weekly route, meeting, mending and creating social interaction where there was none. He found the Tenderloin had the most need and so he decided to continue his project once a month (on the 15th) at the Tenderloin Forest.  He says “his small act is mostly a gesture…but I think the bigger importance is the example of participating, of being a citizen and acting outside of what is normal.” (quote from Read more about Michael Swaine by Wendy Becktold on Then go check it out –and if you’ve never seen the Tenderloin Forest it’s a beautiful little spot that needs a some praise too.

Started in 2009 with grants and city funding, the Tenderloin National Forest is really an alley near Leavenworth and Ellis surrounded by high density buildings and hotels in one of the roughest parts of San Francisco. Now it’s a not-so-hidden oasis, a garden with benches, mosaics, murals, sculpture, dense foliage and even a redwood tree. It’s a magical place and a real hidden gem in the city and shows how important garden space can be in a neighborhood.