LONG BEACH - The mulch has been spread out, plots staked with yellow and pink ribbons, lumber stacked in the back of the lot and today the Wrigley area's first community garden on Henderson Avenue will be open for business.

Within walking distance on the 2000 block of Pacific Avenue, the land has been cleared between a gourmet nut shop and a barbershop and in two weeks the area's second community garden will be up and running.

Suddenly, the Wrigley District is abloom.

For Guy Vigil and Cynthia Arevelo, who live in apartments south of the Henderson location, the Wrigley Garden has been transformative.

The two lots the garden will occupy for the next two years had been home to two notorious apartment complexes.

"It was bad, real bad," says Vigil. "It was noisy all night, all day. There was shooting, stabbings, drug activity, prostitution - lots of things."

Arevelo said she couldn't invite friends to visit because they would be accosted.

"It was always, `Where you from?"' Arevelo said of the street challenge her friends faced when they visited.

As a result, residents felt trapped in their homes and rarely came out and talked.

"You'd be quiet. You couldn't be friends, because you didn't know (people)," Arevelo says.

Now, Vigil and Arevelo say neighbors regularly come out to converse and the garden is becoming a gathering place.

"It's going really well," says Sasha Kanno, director of the garden. "We've been selling plots and generating funds. But like everyone else in this economy we're struggling to raise more."

The garden still needs soil, seeds and water before it will be fully functional, and those cost money.

Today's opening and plant sale may help that effort.

The space has already been divided into 39 plots, measuring 4 by 12 feet each. Some plots are half-sized for children and disabled residents. Most are already reserved.


Sasha Kanno, the director of the Wrigley Garden. (Steven Georges / Staff Photographer)
are in the works for an orchard of potted fruit trees and a pumpkin patch. The garden will be fronted by California native plants.

The project came about as a collaboration between nonprofit Wrigley is Going Green, Sixth District Councilman Dee Andrews' office and the Long Beach Housing Development Company, which bought the property.

The buildings were demolished in 2007 and the lots will be available to the gardeners for two years before it is developed for affordable housing.

Organizers hope after the lease ends that they'll be able to find a permanent site.

Meanwhile, the Wrigley Village Community Garden is getting ready for its unveiling Saturday, Aug. 1.

Located at 2044 Pacific Ave., it is a collaboration between several organizations including the Redevelopment Agency and Neighborhood Leadership Program, private individuals and Long Beach Organic, which will oversee the lot.

The Village garden will offer a youth gardening and educational workshops.

Arevelo is looking forward to plunging her hands into the earth and wants to plant carrots and turnips. She says her granddaughter, Fantasia Salazar, already has plot and hopes to use it for flowers.

Asked what she liked best about the new garden, Kanno said, "Just the mix of energy - and the smiles."

greg.mellen@presstelegram.com, 562-499-1291