So we had our first official community work day, and I’d consider it a good success. There were several tasks we completed including painting veggie signs for the beds, started painting some of the beds themselves (goal is to paint all 56, some are already painted), and transplanted the first round of Cole crop cabbage and broccoli. I set up a few work areas with the wooden signs, brushes, and a crate full of different colors, and allowed the creative juices to flow. While most of the group was making signs I planted the some 60 cloves of ginormous elephant garlic in every center 3 brick holes of the outer ends. This in theory will create a wall of garlic when looking into the garden from the street. I’ll try to get a picture to illustrate this. I was a little surprised no one was interested in planting the garlic, but I could sense this to be more of an artistic bunch, which was a wonderful resource to have. The minor disappointing reality of course, but this being the main challenge of the garden as a whole; not many new faces showed up. But on the brighter note, three kids from the neighborhood did come and really seemed to enjoy embracing their painter’s spirit. Along with them one of my bosses Megan, who is on the Johnson Garden committee, my host family Ben and Ellen, and a few of my housemate John, Hannah, and Katherine,(the others were volunteering at a local churches pumpkin patch sale that really needed help manning the stand, of which I joined later in the evening). So there were more bodies in the garden then I had ever seen at this point… which is a step in the right direction.
So as I previously mentioned there are 56 raised beds in this lot… 56 of them! They are not all the same length but they are the same width. And there are a number of the beds that are taken up; three that are rented by members of the community, four that have been dedicated to butterflies and other pollinators so belong to flowers, and four that will be maintained by the YAV house this year. Which makes for 45 beds open for planting. A large part of the work right now of course is getting the rest of the beds filled with either roots crops or cool season transplants. But there is strategic planning that I have attempted to follow that would allow for a continuous harvest through the next 4 months. This is one of the more challenging parts of growing produce for me, and I often times get really overwhelmed at how to prepared and attach a garden plan. I’ve spent a significant amount of time this past month mapping out what could go where and what kind of split planting schedule each crop could be on that allows the harvest to be extended. Plus, it’s important to plan for quick and slow growing crops. I have a 3’x5′ table space in the Parkway Partners green house, that is completely filled currently with Cole crops, onions, and herbs. My germination rates have been pretty successful, but the key is having confidence and determination to not fall off the schedule when things don’t germinate, a struggle for me at times. A big goal of mine is to be able to offer a diverse harvest, but maintaining a heavy planting of the particular crops that due well in this climate and seem to have a fan following in this neighborhood. Even with 45 beds available, stretching the diversity of plants ends up reduces the amount of space for each crop, so it was a struggle choosing how much to give to whom; more broccoli or more cabbage? More collards, or more mustard greens?…. So I often throw the question out to people I meet day to day, “What vegetables do you enjoy?” And similar to so many communities across this country, there is a deep culture context in the garden that still lives in this neighborhood, whose culinary roots run deep in family history. It’s in that spark in people’s eyes with the mentioning of collard and mustard greens, broccoli and cabbage. While in light of that, I realize that there would be no significance to those conversations if my own generation were not so utterly removed from fresh food culture. The younger generations should have an opportunity to hear the history of their elders, reconnecting them to an unknown food system.
A large reality I have come to respect and love throughout these past years, is that we all have a relationship to our food. And no group of people know a change in relationship to food like us here in the US. And even then, whether it’s a long distance or up close and personal relation, there is a story to be told! So why not make a community garden speak the stories of food history? I have a couple ideas to attempt to incorporate some of the local history with food into the garden itself. From the stories I have already heard, it is apparent that the history of this neighborhood is a very strong asset. In my perspective, shining light on some beautiful experiences with gardening and fresh food, that very well may be going unacknowledged, would be able to expose a powerful asset that could inspire more members of the community to get involved in the garden.
So we’re making progress and it’s exciting to think about this space full of color and fresh food this winter. Thank you again for all the support and I hope fall has welcomed everyone nicely thus far!