In mid 2013, the New Children’s Museum located in downtown San Diego reached out to Urban Plantations with a unique proposal. In the midst of planning their newest exhibit, “Feast: The Art Of Playing With Your Food,” the museum was curious if Urban Plantations could contribute with an edible garden.
“Excited” was an understatement!
The museum found a perfect spot for the new garden. It was a cozy corner between West Island Avenue and the highly trafficked Martin Luther King Promenade. The space had perfect accessibility, many passersby, and plenty of sunlight.
However, the real challenge would be putting together a design that truly upheld the museum’s mission. The statement reads: “The New Children’s Museum is a new model of children’s museum whose mission is to stimulate imagination, creativity and critical thinking in children and families through inventive and engaging experiences with contemporary art.”
The design Urban Plantations put together was truly unique. Although the team had experience farming and gardening in health and education realms, this proposition was unlike anything else. The garden was designed to not only allow children opportunity to literally get their hands dirty, but also to stimulate their senses.
For example, a “Digging Area” was built and installed as a five-sided key-hole raised bed. Children would hunt for worms or plant vegetables with the colorful trowels and forks left in the bed.
A “Sensory Bench,” built in the shape of an “E,” was also installed. Ample seating was set below the heavily scented herbs like rosemary and mint. The herb garden was frequently used during classes and demonstrations.
One of the most distinctive features of the garden was a set of three raised beds. Each was in the shape of a letter spelling out the word “ART” and painted bright red. These beds were not only unique, but were planted with a favorite: strawberries!
There were also two large, tiered raised beds connected by an arched trellis. Often, the children would play hide-and-seek or find relief from the sun under the trellis which usually hosted a passion fruit vine.
To offer privacy from the busy promenade, twelve individual trellises were installed for vining flowers. Each trellis was build with recycled bicycle rims!
Lastly, scattered throughout the garden were citrus trees, avocado trees, grape vines, and California natives. Some of the trees were planted in pots along the promenade so fruit could be picked while walking by. Others were scattered throughout the garden planted in galvanized trash cans.
The New Children’s Museum’s “Feast: The Art Of Playing With Your Food” exhibit and the Urban Plantations garden installation lasted for two years. At the end of 2015, the museum began rolling out “Eureka!” a new California-focused exhibit. Urban Plantations was again asked to take part!
California leads the nation in agriculture, so the garden was converted to “Journey Up the 5 Freeway.” Heavily grown California crops were planted on a small scale, organized from Northern California down the 5 to Southern California. Such edibles included, but were not limited to, artichokes, broccoli, strawberries, garlic, and lettuce.
In 2017, Urban Plantations’ participation in the museum’s exhibits came to end as the museum again began to transition. It remains one of the most unique and enjoyable gardens Urban Plantations has had the pleasure of working in!
The New Children’s Museum is a non-profit organization. To show support, click here to learn more about donating!