Turning a Pool Into a Garden

Elizabeth D. Garcia (left) and Mary Farrar (right) show off the fruit of their labor.

Elizabeth D. Garcia (left) and Mary Farrar (right) show off the fruit of their labor.

This story has been published in tandem with a segment for KCET’s award-winning TV show“SoCal Connected.” Watch it here now.

After two decades of managing Crossroads’ residential rehab for newly released female prisoners, Sister Terry Dodge was ready to expand the program. She found a spacious home for sale in her Claremont neighborhood, but there was only one drawback — a swimming pool in the backyard. Knowing the women in her program weren’t likely to sunbathe or go for a dip, she decided to transform the pool into a garden. The idea wasn’t out of thin air. The women of Crossroads had already established a thriving garden at their main home just minutes away.

In the beginning, a contractor was hired to break up the bottom of the pool, but for the following six months, it was all hands on deck. On some days, up to 60 volunteers helped the Crossroads team dump gravel and dirt into the massive hole. But the hard work paid off. “It gave us something to nurture, take care of, to love,” says former Crossroads resident Elizabeth D. Garcia. “To be able to see everything it gives back is like watching your child grow.”

The pool garden now serves as a key source of organic herbs, fruit and vegetables for daily meals cooked by the women of Crossroads. And what doesn’t get used for dinner goes into a variety of jams, marmalades, and herb mixes sold at nearby farmers’ markets and specialty stores as part of Crossroads’ social enterprise, Fallen Fruit for Rising Women.