Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Community Garden

It's odd that I had zero interest in gardening until I moved from one of the most fertile states to one of the most arid. The main factor was probably space, something I never really had in California but in Colorado, there's room to stretch out.

About four years ago, I noticed things being dug up and moved around in my backyard rental. I remarked to the building manager that it was a shame since I was planning to grow my own vegetables. To my great delight, the landlord (a super cool lady named Amy) heard about my lament and immediately incorporated a raised bed - just for me! - into the new plans. The garden was such a success that earlier this year, Amy added two more raised beds for my neighbors and voila! The Milwaukee Street Garden was born.

Our garden when first planted, May 22nd.
Growing food together has really intensified the fun factor and enlivened our neighborly bond. We exchange observations about plant behavior and share laments about slow growth. And, like most gardeners, we want more bees!

Naturally, we look after one another's "babies." With all the traveling I do, this has been a blessing. I tell them when I am going out of town so they know to water mine when they water their own plots.

Of course, we also share the bounty. The general rule is: No direct harvesting. If anyone has extra to share, it goes on the picnic table and then it is first-come, first-serve. My nuclear bomb-sized zukes always find a happy home and I scored some yellow cucumbers the other day that I did not have to grow myself.

My plot, sometime in July.
Our collective roster of veggies and herbs include: yellow zukes, regular zukes, Japanese eggplant, cucumber, beets, basil, rosemary, lettuce, spinach, peas, cilantro, sunflower, mint, chives, bell pepper, jalapeno, parsley, thyme, New Mexico peppers, cinnamon basil, onions, squash and several varieties of tomatoes. I have not purchased fresh produce from a store in over a month. (On top of this, we also have Concord Grapes, which ripen in the fall, and an apple tree in the front yard.)

Our backyard has now become a friendly meeting place for the entire building. One recent evening, I was out checking my tomatoes and chatting with Graham, who looked up at his sunflowers, wondering when he should harvest. He took a big, yellow head down and explained the process to his adorable five-year-old daughter, Eliot, who squealed in delight. Karin watered her tremendous pumpkins while her son, Ewan, ran around the yard chasing Bodi the cat. My studly neighbor duo, Chris and Tim, cooked up some chicken wings on the grill and we exchanged sports jokes. I doled out bite-sized pear tomatoes, bright yellow, to the kids and they gobbled 'em up with big juicy smiles.

My visiting friend, Kristin, came down the stairs looked upon the scene and said to me, "Wow. You've got a good thing going on here." 

The Exploding Garden, on 8/24/10.
Indeed I do!

Growing your own food and feeding oneself is beyond liberating and it requires very little effort. Turns out, the seeds know exactly what to do. (Must be that whole 'nature' thing I keep hearing about.) For a few gloriously delicious months, I don't pay to eat tasteless, mass-produced produce from from Guam or Mexico. When the season ends and I am forced to once again purchase a cardboard tomato, I feel like crying. 

In the meantime, I celebrate.


Heidi's heart said...

Only a few days ago I wrote a post about my community garden plot on my blog! Having a garden in your own backyard with other tenants, though, is really special. The world is going back to this kind of life, and it can't happen soon enough for me.

Carmen said...

I wish that we had the ability to have this in our neighborhood. I think next year we might try to garden in out own backyard.

ClizBiz said...

Carmen - I highly recommend the experience. You'd be amazed at how it brings people together.