Tag Archives: Berkeley

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.


Gary Rosenberg’s Rooftop Farm


You’d probably never believe Gary Rosenberg’s garden was on a roof top  so I had to prove it with this photo of him climbing up a ladder to it. His Berkeley garden is so densely planted and lush that I was constantly checking my steps to make sure I didn’t walk off the edge. His house didn’t have a backyard and  he wanted to make use of his large flat roof top so he began the rooftop garden back in 1994. First, he made sure the foundation was strong enough to support all the weight. Then he then stripped the old roof down to the structural elements and covered them with thick plywood. He topped it with two layers of modified torch-on, a rubber-like surface that is extremely waterproof and durable. But the mechanics of his garden is really not what it’s all about.

“I don’t teach gardening, I teach civil disobedience,” he  explained, and there’s nothing that bothers him more than our wasteful consumer society. Almost all the containers, building materials, and even plants have been gleaned. He uses solar power, a composting toilet, and recycles the water used to for his plants into a very rich compost tea that he reuses on his plants. He also allows his plants to live their entire lifespans so he can collect the seed from successful plants so they can naturally adapt to the climate. He doesn’t see weeds as a problem, because they are biomass and natural carbon sinks that he eventually add to the compost. The way Gary sees it, if we could redirect the waste stream, improving society would naturally follow.



Collards are allowed to grow over several seasons, he picks leaves as he needs them.


Gary recycles the roof top runoff in barrels that makes a naturally rich compost tea.

Gary has planted over 20 fruit trees along the sidewalk of his Berkeley home.

Gary’s rooftop garden is barely visible from the street because of his densely planted sidewalk garden that contains over 20 fruit trees.