Northside Volunteer Garden

Volunteer Garden

By Bonnie Ross

In October 1997, a rough dirt lot covered with litter and broken glass caught the attention of the Northside Neighborhood Association. The lot was owned by the city of San Jose, and the Association obtained the city’s approval for the use of the site as a garden to be built and maintained by volunteers. The intent of the project was to demonstrate that draught-tolerant and California-friendly plant materials can be attractive and colorful, and to provide a flowering landscape that would attract birds and butterflies.

Work on garden began with planting street trees and continued over the next year. The project gained the support and participation of many neighbors. These volunteers leveled the site, mounded it, planted shrubs and flowers, and mulched the entirety. The project initially cost $1,541, which was covered by the NNA Board and the “Beautification and Barbecue Corps.” The garden was the First Place Winner of the city’s Home Improvement Award, which was presented by Mayor Ron Gonzales in 1998. Then the National Wildlife Federation certified our garden as a wildlife habitat.

To maintain the garden, we periodically organize work days, for weeding, planting and mulching, announcing the dates in the neighborhood email group and newsletter. The park strip was landscaped, along with many other park strips in the neighborhood, using funds from a Community Action Project grant.

Although the garden maintains its character as a site primarily devoted to California natives and drought-tolerant plants, we recognize the need to involve the entire community. Hence you will find the some geraniums and daffodils. The garden is a work in progress. In 2004, the neighborhood installed a split rail fence, planted California bunchgrasses and received a grant from San Jose Beautiful to install a water source, establish a cactus planting on the north end and add more bunchgrasses.

Our neighborhood garden has inspired many a Northside resident to take up gardening with California-friendly plants. If you would like to get involved with the Northside Volunteer Garden, please contact Bonnie Ross at

Before Photo

18th St Before Photo

After Photos

18th St After Photo

Volunteer Garden Plant List:

* California native plant

* California native plant

Plan Drawing

18th St Garden Proejct Plans - click for larger image
click for a larger image


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