Community Garden Politics

I’m back to work on my garden plot, and oh am I ever excited. Got the bed frame built today (and yesterday, thanks to a good Husband who took the wee ones for long walks, which is about all that makes the Babe happy these days). Now I just have to wait for the dirt. Which could be awhile. Bacon said two weeks (the non-profit in charge of all the community gardens is getting a giant soil donation), which could mean significantly longer…. boohoo.

garden bed in progress

I hate to be an ungrateful mother, I do love those little buggers like nothing else, but man oh man do I love working on a project without kids around! Having the time spread out before you, and a task at hand that you can actually concentrate on is sheer bliss. Bonus that the sun was shiny and warm through the nippy edge of the air. Sawdust, dirt and sunshine– is there anything better?

While I was blissing out on the memory of myself as someone who got shit done, the woman with the tidiest bed in the garden came to water it. She introduced herself and we chatted for quite a while. She’s really cool, a slightly older punky artist type. I liked her immediately, and we got right into it. She was surprised that I live so far (about a mile) and said, without malice, “I thought the garden was for people who live in the neighborhood, there’s a long waiting list…” I explained that there are no community gardens closer to me (if that is in fact an excuse, I don’t know) but had no explanation for why I had been floated to the top of the waiting list. Tenacity? Sheer force of will? Black magic? We talked about the ilk of your average community garden tenant, what a shame it is that people who aren’t using their plots are allowed to keep hold of them, and the prevalence of chemical use (I had been worried that my organic gardener self was about to be shocked out of it’s naivety by some bonafide bugs! But she gardens organically, and as I said, has the prettiest bed of all. Phew. It is possible).

So after all the discussion about available beds, and the trouble of building a new one, the one next to mine has just come available, and the coordinator says I’m welcome to it. He’s volunteer, and I know he gets quite disappointed and frustrated by how little people actually use their plots once they get one, let alone that they don’t help in the general upkeep of the communal space. I like to think he is impressed by how much work I’m doing. I have put in a lot of hours already, and I don’t even have dirt to put a seed in yet!

If I were in charge (notice I’m not stepping right up to volunteer), I’d first off make the plots about a quarter the size (they’re huge, my newly built one is 4×12, but the rest are 8×12 or bigger). I think a little plot, like 3×3 is perfect for most people. Enough to get their hands in the dirt, and grow a few heads of lettuce and a tomato plant. Most people have big ideas, but little time or desire to actually do the work. And that’s fine, they should still get the opportunity to get some dirt under their nails. But then any extra spaces could be divvied up between those who really work their plots. Of course, I myself feel that 4×12 is hardly enough…

Secondly, and more importantly, I’d mandate 5 hours of communal space weeding before anyone could get into their own dirt. That’d knock the top 90% off the waiting list!

Speaking of weeding, I followed my epic acetosa removal in November with layers of cardboard and leaves. Today I pulled back some cardboard, to dig a little hole for a corner post, and the dirt underneath was just rife with that wicked stuff, regrowing as thick as if I hadn’t spent so many hours on my hands and knees sifting those damn little corms out. Holy Shicksa Baby! That is downright creepy.

3 thoughts on “Community Garden Politics

  1. Have you ever read Mel Bartholomews Square foot gardening book? He writes at that when he started a communtiy garden they initial response was fantastic, lot sof people all keen to grow their own veg, they dug, they toiled, they raked they planted, they waited…they weeds grew! Some persevered and they lost the vast majority of the people. They were big allotment style beds and you can spend most of the time fighting the weeds, I reckon they could be used in some kind of warfare technique because even the most toughened gardener can lose the will to live and stop fighting sometimes! :D MB’s SFG sem to elliminate the need for all that weeding. We have raised beds, 4ft x 4ft and the time spend weeding is pretty non existant. So when you mentioned about smaller beds you’re right, they would be so much easier to manage and people might stick it out for longer.

    1. yes, i’ve read most of the gardening literature available, i have a voracious appetite for it, even if it’s just another one of the plethora of almost identical basic organics. all i’ve ever done actually is raised bed, “square foot” style gardening. at home in Alaska i would only have to do a minimum of weeding in the first month. no biggie. but here, they have some psycho weeds. i’m doing everything i can to get a clean start, but we’ll see how long that buys me…

  2. I’m a gardener-in-waiting, in that I really have piss-weak excuses like the heat, the dog, the two kids and a partner away, that kind of excuse me from getting in to the soil and ‘doing’…but you saying this

    “While I was blissing out on the memory of myself as someone who got shit done”

    really made my day. I’ve got a sewing explosion in my house at the moment, as I inherited an entire craft room off of my partner’s grandmother. I’ve only just started to put it in to some sort of order, and I’m no where near finished. And mainly because with two under three underfoot, it’s just damn near impossible sometimes!

    But excellent progress in house-wife-times is any progress I believe, so congrats on your steps and your gumption this far in. Love your blog, thanks for your words all the way from Western Australia.

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