Community Garden Commute
This is the first summer of commute gardens: two rented plots in public gardens 3 and 30 miles from my home, respectively. It’s also the first time I have actively looked into eating weeds — things I never thought I would grow so successfully. I fully intended to work in each garden on alternating days, to harvest lettuce several times over, to max out those plots with rotation-succession-(trans)plantings, to cultivate two well-managed food gardens so well, family members and then neighbors w0uld be pressed to accept bags of vibrantly colored lettuce, exotic tomatoes, basil, heirloom squashes, and nasturtium (“Yes, yes, they are so beautiful, and you can eat them, too.”). All this without buying tools or soil improvements; all this on the cheap and outright fanatically organic, and, I hoped, mostly by bicycle.
In my springtime of enthusiasm, it was going to be as easy as getting up every morning at 5.
Yes, at first, I did get up early, but probably not that early, and definitely not that regularly, and my old bike’s tires are pumped up, but to essentially no avail — I’ve used it twice to get to the nearer garden. Lettuce I have harvested — big bags of it, fresh and colorful and only lately bitter — and pushed on family members, and I might get one more round in, but first I’ll have to tug out the remaining old plants and find a rabbit warren to feed, or just accept the idea that it’s worm food.
Where did I trip up in putting plan into action? Well. At the end of the long winter I suppose I was drinking more coffee than was wise or productive, which, for me, results in a sort of cruel catch-22: a clarion call to action (“Carpe diem! Move, move, move!”) coupled with an almost paralytic level of indecision. What’s more, since I have never had this much garden to deal with, I completely underestimated the amount of time it would take to really thrive. What was initially planned to be 20 minutes a day in the garden, at dawn, soon turned into 2 hour weeding marathons, once a week, whenever the Hell I could wedge it in. Once the weeds really took hold — some time in June — I lost all chance of maintaining “the land” with just a little bit every day.
In sum: the gardens are growing, but I have relinquished a lot of that control I aimed for earlier in the year. What’s been soothing, however, is the container garden on the balcony. For every five plants I have neglected in the community plots, there is one green, good-looking hot-pepper plant growing in a carefully converted watering can. I’ve put a lot of creative juice into this garden that only grows enough food for snacking. But, ultimately, it has been the most satisfying garden because, every day, I look out at it (or up at it, from the road or the yard) and know that I can bend it to my will in a matter of minutes — that I am still an O.K. gardener. Here I can actually notice and dispatch of bugs, shift plants around to suit them, and satisfy some oddball whims like birch bark planters and peanut shell potting mix.
And — and, and, and — this is the garden in which I hide quietly at the end of the day, when there’s nothing left to do there but enjoy it.