After eight years of waiting, I’ve been given a community garden plot and I am beyond excited.
This may come as a surprise to you for a number of reasons. It’s that Wheelbarrow thing – the assumption that I have a big garden. In my dreams I do.
I dream of a small potager garden outside the back door. I would espalier fruit trees and berry brambles along a perfect fence – weathered wrought iron, simple design, pointy tops to keep out the animals. and allowing for plenty of airflow.
There would be small discreet beds, and gravel paths. I would grow herbs and greens, a few chiles that are hard to find. I would hump dirt over potato plantings and dig out small rosy tubers with my hands. There would be a loamy bed for peas and beans and a sandy one for carrots and beets.
I would wear a quirky straw hat and a gardening costume…
Well, here’s the reality. We live on a big hill. BIG. Hauling stuff up and down a steep set of steps is a pain. Consequently, over the years, the entire back garden has been designed to shine with very little fussy maintenance. It’s filled with shrubs and perennials and lots of Spring bulbs. Flowering plants and foliage colors. No matter what, I cannot grow one edible thing.
The only fenced area is in the backyard, completely surrounded by eighty foot oak trees. This heavy shade keeps our favorite sitting spot, the shady nook, cool and pleasant, even on days when it is nearing 100*F. The fence keeps the deer out of the yard, but the squirrels, chipmunks (100s), raccoons, possum, fox, neighborhood cats, birds of all sizes and shapes, including hawks, and LOUIE run around the place with abandon. I cannot grow anything that these beasts won’t eat or crush before I can get there. Including a patch of 12 frais de bois plants that have produced dozens of fruits. I have tasted three berries in six years.
Attempts to grow tomatoes in pots on the blistering hot front hilltop, near the house, or driveway, have been comical. I had three tomato plants in giant pots. They grew to seven feet and were covered with fruit. To keep them from deer and other pests (see list above) I wrapped the entire plant gently in deer netting. It was a huge inverted megaphone shape. The raccoon tipped the entire thing over, crawled in the top and took a bite from each tomato. The definition of despair.
So I just gave up. It was all too much. For three years now I’ve grown early lettuces in pots. And of course, herbs. Tons of parsley, thyme, chives, oregano, rosemary, lemon verbena, dill and as many varieties of basil as possible. But there is only one tiny patch of sunny in the backyard, so that soil is tired and needs a rest. I started herbs in pots, which was fine, but all this time I yearned for a little flat and sunny piece of land to garden.
I love the feeling of loamy black dirt between my fingers. The sight of a hardworking earthworm. Buds of new leaves on tiny plants, then the joy of early flowers promising food. I don’t love tomato hornworm and squash borers, but I still marvel at their unique function. I’ve missed the daily reminder of life that a little garden will provide and the joy of success when one of the crops just takes off.
It’s clearly a crazy time to say yes to the community garden. After all, I have a deadline, right?
Fiddledeedee… I’m just going to do it. It will be a good reason to leave the desk and stretch and put on some gardening clothes to sweat in the summer heat and pluck something incredibly fresh to bring home for dinner.
I’ve had a time ordering some seeds, but refuse to give in to the deeper addiction and start seeds of rarer varieties. I have to be realistic. I will sprinkle parsley seeds in the ground, and radishes, lettuce and spinach. After that, I will buy a few little plants – herbs, a lot of herbs – and as many chiles as I can fit.
Mind you, I haven’t even seen my garden plot yet. I don’t know what’s there already. But I’m dreaming about it all the time.
I’ll be back in a few days… I’ve been cooking up something fun.