A Gardening Windfall

Last year, when I moved to Saudi Arabia, I had to turn down a community garden plot that had been offered to me. It hurt to do that--I had been on the list for some time at that garden--but I thought I would have ample space on the shores of the Red Sea to grow my crops.

When I came back to DC late last year, I despaired for having a garden--I thought, "Oh no, I'm going to have to start all over on the waiting lists...!"

But, suddenly, in early March, I received an e-mail from a friend mentioning that a new community garden, just blocks from me, was accepting applications for plots. I jumped on it.

Wangari Gardens popped up seemingly overnight--I heard murmurs about it in February, and suddenly, just weeks later, it was built and plots were assigned.

It wasn't magical elves who built it--it took a lot of people working really hard to get everything together. I turned over the grass for a few plots and helped construct 22 raised beds one weekend in March. The organizers of the garden, of course, have also put massive amounts of energy into coordinating the garden and have already organized several day-long community events at the space. (This photo is from late March--the fence is now completed and painted. I'll have to get an updated shot.)

The 4-foot by 8-foot raised beds are pretty easy to put together, if you have the right equipment and an awesome construction dude/arborist volunteer directing the effort.

I happily constructed a little metal trellis for my peas, which I planted a week ago while the beau watched and helped water. Watering will be irksome here until a faucet system is installed--the beds dry out incredibly fast, but the only water available right now is via a large cistern and plastic watering cans. So, I do about six trips just to keep the soil moist when I visit, although I know when I have plants growing in the summer heat, it will probably take at least 10 jug-filling trips to water the plot--daily.

This isn't the end of the news, however.

That garden I had to turn down a plot in? Well, I e-mailed them the moment I returned from Saudi Arabia to get back on the wait-list. And a week and a half ago, I was notified that I had been assigned a plot.

I wasn't about to turn it down.

My plot at Newark Street Community Garden is 16 feet long and 14 feet wide, although a chunk of that is taken out through pre-existing pathways to access the planting area. The plot had hay mulch on top of it over the winter, and some of the hay had started growing this spring. Underneath the hay was beautiful dark, moisture-retentive soil. I set the beau to weeding while I garden-weaseled the top six inches or so of the soil, working in some of the hay for a little extra structure and to decompose throughout the season.

The one plant that wasn't hay or a weed is a little rosemary bush, which will serve as the focal point of my herb area. I want to put a trellis next to it, arching over the path to the back of the plot, and grow cucurbits over it. At least, this year. Perhaps I'll start training grapes or other vining fruit up it next year.

After the beau's excellent work weeding and removing the hay I couldn't reasonably incorporate into the soil, I was still garden weaseling the soil. A week later, and there were almost no weeds in the plot. I sowed peas, chard, and some bunching onion along the fence and brought most of my potted fruit plants over to the garden--partially to avoid overwatering them here at the house, but also to give them the light they need to thrive.

Here's a video of me dirt squirreling (I like that phrase much better than garden weaseling) that the beau took while he took a break from weeding.

I had a bit of a moral dilemma about having two plots--I was not going to say no to Newark Street Community Garden, but I didn't really want to give up the closer-to-home plot at Wangari, either. I consulted a few people, and I think I reached a good compromise--I offered to share my plot at Wangari Gardens with a woman who had heard about the garden but hadn't gotten her application in on time. Although she didn't have a plot, she came out in the rain and worked furiously turning over soil to prepared the raised beds when I was out volunteering, too. She's a new gardener, and I think working together will be good for both of us--and for the plot, which will probably need more frequent watering than I would be able to manage alone because of the water situation at the garden. I don't know whether she'll accept the offer (I'm going through the garden organizers, because I don't have the woman's e-mail), but if not, I'll work with them to find someone who's interested in learning about gardening and sharing the space with me!

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3 Responses to A Gardening Windfall

  1. This is awesome, I can't wait to see it develop! Those plots always look a bit scary when just starting out but I am sure it will be tended to and worked and looking productive and happy in no time!

  2. Erin, I'd definitely be intimidated with your yard! But I'm thinking drip irrigation at Newark Street (I'm reading the bylaws now to make sure they're not taboo) and with sharing at Wangari, watering should be a snap--and I think that's the first hurdle to jump over.

    Making sure all the plants are happy, well, we'll see how that goes!

  3. How cool to have gotten both plots! You are a workaholic though, eh??? Best wishes for loads of fun at both sites!!!



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