Supporting community growth with gardens

Tim Lee, right, assists his younger brother Connor at the Valencia High School garden that Connor renovated over the summer. August 09, 2021. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Many at-home hobbies like baking and sewing started to see a resurgence as the last year’s quarantine got underway, more and more are also getting outside in their homes with gardening.

As the economy reopens and many get back to work and school, however, it looks like the gardening trend is here to stay.

Bringing a school’s garden back to life

It was after Valencia High School junior Connor Lee saw the school’s garden was in disarray that he knew he had to do something.

Connor’s brother Tim created the garden as his Eagle Scout project a couple of years ago, so Connor said he was disappointed to see it with vandalized fences and plant beds unkept, after the pandemic left the school grounds closed for about a year.

“I wanted to get it ready for the first day of school,” Connor said, adding that he hoped it could once again provide fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as be a place for both staff and students to come relax.

The Valencia High School garden that is restored after being vandalized over the summer. August 09, 2021. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Connor broke ground on the project July 3, working hard over the next month in order to get the garden ready before school began Aug. 10.

While Connor did most of the work himself, he also had some help from his family, including Tim, his sister Emily and parents Susan and Mark.

“We didn’t go to Hawaii, but our whole family got tan,” Susan said, joking, adding that she was very proud of Connor’s hard work.

Overall, Connor put in additional drainage and irrigation, built new raised planters with galvanized metal and redwood, re-stained the fence and installed pavers donated by Marina Landscaping.

“We made it more of a ‘garden’ … (but) my product was a rough draft and his was the final draft,” Tim said of his brother’s completed renovation. “I’m proud of him. … He’s put a lot of work in. When I started the garden, I never thought it would come out to look so professional like something you see on HGTV.”

The Valencia High School garden how it started. Courtesy
The Valencia High School garden after Tim Lee’s Eagle Scout project. Courtesy

Through the process, teachers and staff who were getting ready for school to start motivated him to keep working with their encouraging comments, Connor added.

“A lot of teachers have ideas for what’s going to happen … like the culinary teacher came by and really likes the idea of growing a lot more fresh produce for the students to use,” Connor said.

Of those supporting Connor’s work was Assistant Principal David Miles, who said it’s great to see a student put forth so much dedication.

“I just think it’s really cool how his family’s gotten involved on campus, and the product is fantastic — even better than we could have imagined,” Miles said.

Miles said the garden will be valuable to the whole school, both students and staff.

Tim Lee, right, assists his younger brother Connor at the Valencia High School garden that Connor renovated over the summer. August 09, 2021. Bobby Block / The Signal.

“I just really appreciate the vision for a space that people can go and just relax,” Miles added. “I think at schools it’s tempting to look at spaces just to be functional … but to have a space where it’s functional for the ability to grow things, but also to have a space for reflection is just so important and powerful right now.”

It’s the support Connor received from both his family and school staff that helped to push him, he said, adding, “I’m extremely proud of this. I learned a lot of different lessons.”

Of those lessons was perseverance to keep going, though tired both mentally and physically of working on the garden in the triple-digit, summer heat, Connor added.

And it’s some of these lessons Connor hopes to take with him as he starts his junior year and begins to focus on preparing for college.

Conor Lee waters plants in the Valencia High School garden that he rennovated over the summer. August 09, 2021. Bobby Block / The Signal.

Digging into gardening in the SCV

As Connor tackled the garden renovation, he sought advice and inspiration from the Community Gardens of Santa Clarita, located at Central Park, which is another local gardening asset to the SCV.

The 1.29-acre garden has been around for more than 10 years, and is a great asset for the community, especially those with small yards, consisting of 144 plots of 10-by-20-foot plots cut in half to accommodate more gardeners, of which the garden has 70 or 80, according to Mark Hershey, president of the Garden Council.

The garden and its council strive to create a community facility where individuals can come together to promote the benefits of locally grown, organic food, Hershey explained.

“The garden’s very productive,” Hershey said. “It’s wonderful out there.”

The garden has two growing seasons, and is currently coming to the end of the summer season and is set to transition to winter crop soon.

Mahnaz Hassanvan (cq) of Valencia prepares to plant more vegetables in her garden at the Community Garden of Santa Clarita located at Central Park in Saugus. Hassanvan, a life-long gardener, started her 10X20 garden patch at The Community Garden in January, which includes vegetables, herbs and flowers.

While there are tools and other supplies available to gardeners, each gardener is responsible for taking care and choosing their own crops, of which more than 50% are simply required to be vegetables, as well as amendments.

Gardeners are also required to do 12 hours of volunteer work at the garden per year, such as watering, weeding, mulching or digging holes for pipes.

The garden is typically locked, but the public is welcome to visit and are allowed in by gardeners, when possible.

Additionally, the garden has two tool sheds, a greenhouse, small orchard of fruit trees, butterfly garden, chicken coop with 20 range-free chickens, owl and bluebird boxes, as well as two outreach plots where everything grown is donated to the SCV Food Pantry.

Interested gardeners are invited to join the waitlist on the garden’s website at

Related To This Story

Latest NEWS