07 July 2010

The Delicious Jungle

I have to admit, dear reader - I'm a two-timer.  I'm cheating on my community garden plot with a second community garden plot.  It's difficult to balance time between the two - if I neglect one for too long, it becomes droopy.  But I've managed it thus far pretty well.  At least that's what I thought...

My primary garden is the community plot we've rented through the city of Evanston.  We were on the waiting list for TWO YEARS before a new garden manager took over and started splitting plots up, so to make more room for the waiters.  Like us.  So it's no wonder that this one is my favorite!  We've taken it from a bed of weeds, to delicious jungle, stalked by pink tomatoes, purple carrots and white eggplants.  Yum!

My secondary garden is actually my first - while waiting with no seeming hope in sight for a space to open up at the Evanston gardens, I learned of a friend who was opening up her yard to the Baha'i community to use as a community garden.  I jumped at the chance, but it was several months before we were able to plant, and by then I had already begun working with the Evanston garden.  So my energy was already taxed by working in my other garden, and I was probably the most lackluster participant.  I suppose I just didn't want to share!

Our second garden plot is shared with a friend, and the entire garden is community property of all who plant there.  Our little plot is divided into four 4'x4' sections, and we have planted a random assortment of whatever seeds we had available - one "flower" section has larkspur, zinnias, nasturtium, and borage.  A second plot holds rows of carrots, parsley, and onions (which never took).  The third section is planted with more carrots, spinach, dill, and radishes.  The fourth (and my favorite) is reserved for several watermelon plants, which grew from seeds I saved from last year.  We shall see if it bears any fruit!

This morning, I woke up early and decided to sneak out of my house before anyone else was stirring.  My first inclination was to go to my primary garden, and finish a few odds and ends before I leave town this weekend, but I thought back to that first love of mine, and how sadly neglected it must feel compared to those nearby plots, whose gardeners planted new seeds or seedlings instead of 7 year-old leftovers, and who benefited from regular weeding and watering.  So I pointed my nose south and drove over to that garden, to see what portion of the relationship I could patch up.

I entered through the gate as quietly as possible (it only being 5:30 AM), and made my way through our host's lovely backyard to the community area.  The neighboring plots looked like the Garden of Eden, and the "blue ribbon" plot, which was thoughtfully and industriously laid out by another family was a cornucopia of vegetable excitement.  Blushing, I turned my gaze to our corner plot.

 It wasn't so bad as I had thought.  The flower section was healthily growing, with lots of tall zinnias and larkspur vying for light.  The borage was pouting in a row in the corner, and the nasturtium was valiantly trying to grow beyond those taller and more bossy plants.  I weeded a bit there, but left the flowers mostly to work things out themselves.

The carrot/onion/parsley section was rather pathetic looking.  The carrots needed some thinning, and were rather saggy.  The parsley was trying it's best, but was clearly needing some help, and there were two valiant onions who had sprung from the old seed we had planted.  Hooray!  I thinned the carrots and cleared the lambs quarters (tasty weeds that they are).  Then I planted purple beans (because they are so gratifying to watch grow) where the onions should have been, and added some parsley seeds to complete the sparse rows.

The radishes had completely taken over the third section.  We had planted them for the girls (Olivia, Elsie, and our friend's daughter, Kaia) to watch grow, because they are quick to sprout and quick to come to fruition, but we had neglected them, and they had gone insane by sending up huge leaves (akin to beets), and leaving mostly paltry roots below (they had needed thinning a long time ago).  The leaves had overshadowed the carrots and dill, so they had to go.  I went at it with a vengeance, and was pleased to see that, although long deprived of sun from their ravenous radish neighbors, the dill and carrots were growing as best they could.  A little thinning and a good pep talk later, they looked somewhat better.  The spinach had one plant which had survived the radish onslaught, and so I weeded around it, and added several neighboring rows of spinach for company.

The watermelon plants were elegantly spreading their vines in their private bed.  I admired how pretty they were, and weeded a bit, but such a plant is mostly happy with its own praise.

Upon leaving, and hoping to arrive home in time to sneak in a shower before those other people in my house woke up, I reflected a bit on my garden.  I suppose it is alright to have two loves - as long as they are treated equally.  I was generally disappointed at the fruits from this garden thus far, but then reminded myself that the garden was not to blame - a negligent gardener was the real culprit.  Next year, I will try something different - I will plan a little better and make sure that I have a full and wonderful set of gardens, if possible.  This year I would chalk up to experience, and I will eat my humble pie this year with relish (made from the neighbor's cucumbers).

But all was not lost.  To assuage my hurt pride, I had planted two pie pumpkin mounds.  Although the neighboring plots were verdant with squashes and tomatoes and beans and kale, I soothed my wounded ego by assuring myself that, come fall, my plot would be the most popular.

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