My sister, Laurie, and I got a plot in a community garden!
After nine months of waiting for a spot to open, we were so excited to get this news that we did silly stuff like photograph our plot stake:
We grew up with a huge vegetable garden. That means that in our day, we picked a lot of green beans; we ate way too much egg plant, and we spent a good number of afternoons huddled on the front stoop while mom and dad fought over how to put jars in the canner (the potential for food spoilage and broken glass in the same activity always put my overly cautious mother right over the edge).
We had fun with it too. Every year, my father would let one zucchini grow unfettered, "just for grins." If you leave a tomato on the vine, it will get riper and riper, but a zucchini? A zucchini will just get bigger and bigger.
A humongous zucchini might be fun to look at, but it's not so great to actually eat. Still, after all that tending and growing, Dad couldn't let it go to waste. So my mother would stuff it. Then we'd all sit around the table gazing in wonder at this tremendous boat of a vegetable that my father had grown. Should we have taken it to the fair?
It's too late for zucchini this year, but the park service insists that we plant something--within two weeks of signing our contract.
With this new sunny space, and the imperative that we move quickly, we raced to our plot, eager to see the site of our future vegetative triumphs.
We found this:
And for some context:
I suppose we should take the rule about keeping your garden plot functional as more of a suggestion than a hard and fast requirement.
Not to be discouraged, we surveyed the situation and made a plan.
We'd clear it out. We'd get something growing. We'd be a great team!
Thankfully, Laurie knows someone (her husband) who knows someone who has the kind of machinery you need to knock a job like this out in a jiffy.
That's great, but there's a glitch. You see, the overgrowth was never our problem.
If you have been reading this blog for a while, I wonder if perhaps you have guessed the real challenge.
When I met Laurie at the plot the second day, I wondered as I watched her digging, if she knew what the real challenge would be.
The thing is, I've had a vegetable garden before. When Steve and I first got married, I persuaded my apartment manager to allow me and the other residents to plant gardens on an empty plot of land. I grew tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, bell peppers and carrots. I loved that garden, laboring over it all summer. I even carried huge cans of water from the distant spigot every day.
As I expected, it grew green and luscious. I strutted around amid my leaves and vines like Foghorn Leghorn himself. Oh, to be young and prideful; I had not yet discovered the true color of my thumb.
Then one day, it died.
Perhaps it wasn't just one day, but little by little, something in the way of disease or critter struck each and every plant I'd grown--before I'd picked a single thing. If I were Laura Ingalls, my journal would have come to a tragic end that year, the words falling off the page as my bony little fingers recorded my final words.
Oh the tragedy.
"How could it all die?" you ask.
You should know.
I am a plant killer, remember? There's really no other way to explain it. These things happen. This kind of "luck" strikes people like me.
I'm not telling my sister any of this. I don't want to dissuade her from our partnership. You never know, she might cut me out of the whole deal.
Instead, I'm scampering around wondering, what can a plant killer hope to grow, starting in late September?
Oh - I know! Why not something I've already begun to kill! Although I haven't had a big vegetable garden since that first travesty, I do grow herbs in my yard's one sunny spot. I dabble with vegetables in there, but they almost always come to a bad end.
This year, I thought I'd try my hand at some fall crops, planting broccoli, spinach and lettuce. To my surprise, they grew heartily. "Everything looks so good!" I thought.
Unfortunately, the deer thought so too. Little by little, they've stripped the leaves in the dark of night, working their way furtively down the row. I know this isn't the same as killing something with your own hands, but still, a better gardener would have deer semen, or deer blood, or whatever it is people in the know use for a deterrent--perhaps a fence?! Not me. I just sit and watch as my little plants disappear, one bite at a time.
Since the new garden has a fence, Laurie and I decided to transplant my broccoli and spinach. She is excited and doesn't appear to understand the kind of liability I pose. Failure wouldn't occur to her anyway because her thumb glows so green it might have uranium in it. When she walks into my house, my plants perk up in desperation, hoping she might notice their plights and intervene.
While Laurie might not see the risks inherent in gardening with a plant-killer, I know full well how much I need her. I was counting on her to give this garden a fighting chance. I was feeling confident she can lead me into the world where plants live long enough to bear fruit.
Then my hopes were dashed when she showed up for our first day of labor wearing earrings and flip flops!
How can a person garden dressed like that!? For god's sake, she's probably even wearing deodorant.
Our whole lives she has out shined me as the fancy pants in the family. I suppose I should revel in the fact that we've found something to do together for which I'm the one with the better outfit.
Still, if she's going to make this happen for me, she needs to get dirty!
You'll be glad to know that like true partners, we switched jobs. I dug the holes (without posing for pictures thank god!) and she did the planting.
It doesn't look like much, but it's a start. Hopefully together, we have what it takes to make this thing grow!
Interested in a community garden? Check with your local park service to see if you have plots available for rent near you. Ours is cheap - less than $10/month!