Confessions of a Lapsed Community Gardener

By Jen Russon

A photo of the author in 2011
A photo of the author in 2011
On the first day of spring, I revisited the community garden and was overcome with (yes, it’s corny) a sense of how much it had blossomed and grown since my last volunteer day over a year ago. (a year ago…and I do feel bad!) I hadn’t remembered so many butterflies hovering around on my last visit; hadn’t recalled the nice bench and billowy white canopy, or the pastel painted tires that hold such bright flowers. The first thing you’ll be struck by if you’ve been an inconstant gardener like me is how hard everyone has been working.
everything photo

It used to be you’d come here and see mere sections that showed dedication and know-how—now the whole area, which is sizeable, looks well loved. Right now, Monarch butterflies are laying their eggs in the landscaping that butts up against the garden gates, a project I remember helping with. The smell of chamomile, roses and lemongrass mingle with the hot March breeze—intoxicating enough to make you forget there’s a dog park around the corner.

There are personal touches everywhere from small to grand, from clever birdfeeders made of plastic soda bottles to a wide and curving gravel path, paved by the Boy Scouts of America. The abridged version of all this poetic jibber-jabber is that this community garden is something just about everyone, upon entering, wants to be a part of.
What a long way this place had come! Circa 2011, most of the plots were a tangle of dirt and roots—maybe a sweet potato or two if you were lucky. The sign posted on the chain link fence advertised: “Garden Plots Available!”, and for around $39 per year I secured plot #8—I harvested a few handfuls of green beans, lots of lettuce, green onions and a few tomatoes, but certainly, I could do better. I could be inspired by what’s here now: shiny black, low hanging eggplants, big as a size 10 pair of Crocs, jicama, bright green chili peppers, enough kale for everyone standing on line at the Jamba Juice to have an energy drink; cabbage roses, REAL roses—and maybe it would look good enough to put my own personal stamp on it. Pictured here, are some of the more personalized plots, maintained by people who obviously know what they are doing.

A garden plot to literally "crow" about!
A garden plot to literally “crow” about!

While I toured and snapped photos, Satya—a seriously committed member who has been known to lead yoga classes on garden grounds—watered her plots and offered me a crisp green bean.
She gave me the scoop on all the old (and new) faces around here, and mentioned that Lee ought to harvest his beans soon, and get them over to the food charity that the garden has donated hundreds of pounds of fresh produce to over the years.

Anyway, as I thought about all that good will, snapped my photos, and shadows of butterfly wings hovered around my silhouette, I’ll admit to feeling heavy hearted and sheepish, not renewing my plot for 2013/2014. In 2012 I’d paid the annual dues, but handed over my plot to the care of Satya. She’d done an excellent job—but we both knew it was a slippery slope to my not renewing. I had reasoned that it’s too far to drive and my green thumb too non-existent. In truth the garden is around 5 miles away, and I’m as good as any gardener when I try. This sudden shift in my confidence level was something that I at first blamed on sun exposure (unseasonably warm that day in the garden!), but now that I’m writing this in my office, cool drink in hand and still missing my plot, I may just have to give Judith Gulko a call…Do you have the papers for me to sign, Judi? Am I too late?

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