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A Garden with No Obstacles in Mill Valley

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A Garden with No Obstacles in Mill Valley

October 18, 2012

The raised beds are really raised, to waist height, no bending or stooping required, and the crushed gravel paths are exceptionally wide and flat. But this is not the first thing—or even the second or third—that you notice.

At The Redwoods senior housing complex in Mill Valley, where squash vines and nasturtium fight it out in a corner and seedlings march in rows in the greenhouse, what you notice is the flapjack stack of work gloves. And all those straw sun hats on a shelf near the tool shed. This is a place where many people garden together, shoulder to shoulder. Wheelchairs welcome.

Photographs by Michelle Slatalla for Gardenista.

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Above: The Redwoods was built in the early 1970s as affordable housing that would encourage seniors to remain vital members of the community. A weekly tradition is political protest; on Fridays, residents congregate—with their lawn chairs and anti-war posters and giant bobbing Gandhi head—at a nearby intersection to urge motorists to honk for peace. Are you surprised they also have the most amazing organic garden in town?

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Above: The garden is named for Robert Sinclair Scott, a former Redwoods board member and Mill Valley scout master who in the 1960s bought a small local wine testing and supply facility he renamed Scott Laboratories Inc. (currently located in northern California and Canada).

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Above: Seasonal kale and cabbages. Every week, under the direction of Garden Activities Coordinator Fred Muhlheim, volunteers harvest ripe vegetables and offer them free—first come, first served—to residents at the center. "They go fast," says Muhlheim.

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Above: The 14-year-old garden sprawls in the most charming way, with a little shaded patio area under fruit trees, and rows of raised beds, and benches in the sun, and a 2.4-acre Aububon Society marshland on its border.

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Above: As Mr. Muhlheim notes, his title is not "gardener," but rather "garden activities coordinator," because the whole point is to get residents involved in the growing process. Here, nasturtium riots on teepees in the garden's sunny central courtyard.

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Above: In Northern California's mild climate, something is under cultivation in the Redwoods garden pretty much year round. Here, soldier straight seedlings are in the greenhouse in October.

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Above: A pile of straw hats. Grab one to protect yourself from the sun—and then start pulling weeds.

700 redwoods raised beds

Above: The paths between the beds are wide enough to traverse comfortably in a wheelchair or walker. The ledges are the perfect height to double as seating.

700 tomatoes and squash

Above: Late season harvest: cherry tomatoes and a monster squash.

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Above: Well worked work gloves.

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Above: A corner of one of the beds, where vegetables and cutting flowers consort freely.

700 limit bouquet sign

Above: Sounds reasonable.

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Above: Late day sun hits the hats and the baby lettuces.

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