In the buzzing radiance of the garden, everything I see is alive. My neighbors looked up from tending their plants as my dog runs a woodchuck into the woods. “Good dog! Protecting the garden!” they cheered. (NB: no groundhogs were harmed making this blog.)
Every plot in this community garden is different: Here edges made with locust logs, for their rot resistance. There, someone has used tree branches for trellising. Another has tomatoes suspended by adjustible twine to lend support as they grow. Some still rich bare earth, others bushy with green. Some weedy, with bolting kale waving yellow blossoms. A hill of strawberries, crinkled leaves all jaunty, and such treasure beneath the green!
My half-plot is all the way down the end, so I admire the changes as I arrive, tools in hand. It’s the first vegetable garden I’ve grown in 10 years, and my first experience with a community garden. I took on a half, since at 12 x 15′ it’s already bigger than my last successful city garden. I learned long ago that bigger can be too much, and I really want this to succeed.
My nearest garden neighbors are in Afghanistan, and their strawberries are burgeoning with fruit, even though many of us gardeners have been harvesting by pints and quarts. I taste a few, crushing the warm sweet berry on my tongue as I survey the changes from two days ago. I see that since spreading home compost I have hundreds of tiny tomato plants coming up, and two fast growing squash-pumpkin-gourd-melon things. Plus, peach pits! My french breakfast radishes are popping out of the soil, asking to be plucked. The little beets are crowding more, and I thin and thin until I have a nice pile of beet greens for supper. More potato plants are crowning through the soil and my own tiny strawberry patch has 2 ready to eat gems. Next year, sweet abundance!
While I am admiring the potatoes, my neighbor K warns me about potato bugs. She takes me to another plot to see them. At first glance, they are roundish and orange with spots and might remind one of the beneficial ladybug. But no, I look closer: these fiendish beasties are actively chomping the leaves in a voracious manner! She shows me how to pluck them (less pleasant that picking berries, alas) and I squash them with a plank. MY potatoes.
I spend an hour or so puttering: pulling weeds, harvesting , setting up a field washing system so less grit goes through my drains at home. I transplant one mystery gourd to a nearby untended plot — if it’s pumpkin, gourd or melon, I don’t have the space — and feed some of the feeble looking plants more top dressing of composted manure. My dogs have come to rest in the shade outside the gate, and the birds swoop overhead and chatter on the fence. I sow some new seeds: Russian Kale and climbing beans. I stow my tools and admire the box of greens and reds I take home.
*Link to Dylan Thomas poem The Force that through the Green Fuse drives the Flower