The town where I live has started several community garden projects – one at the new community center, and two near elementary schools – to encourage local food production by residents who would not otherwise be able to garden.
I have tried, over the years, to do a bit of container gardening, and even had a tiny raised bed one year, but I have never gone beyond five or six plants. Gardening intimidates me, and the fear of a small failure is less of a hurdle to overcome than failure on a larger scale, square footage-wise.
This year, on a crazy impulse, I decided to take one of the new plots at the community gardens, giving me about three times the gardening space of my largest attempt to date. While this is intimidating, I have high hopes for my success for a number of reasons.
First, at a community garden, gardening is a social activity. The first time I went to the garden to cultivate the plot before planting, I met a number of my fellow gardeners and we griped about the weather and discussed planting strategies while we worked. I was actually a bit disappointed when the job was done as I was enjoying the social time.
Second, there’s a certain amount of peer pressure not to neglect your plot, especially if you’ve met your neighbours. When your garden is hidden in your backyard, it’s a little easier to let your plants drown in weeds or miss out on some watering than when it’s out in the open for the world to see.
Finally, rather than making a garden the reason you can’t go out, a community garden plot makes gardening an outing. I can take my son and we can stop by the garden to water and weed to get out of the house for a while. It helps that the garden is near a 7-11, so after doing a bit of gardening we can treat ourselves to a Slurpee on hot days. Now gardening is an outing rather than an excuse for my anti-social behaviour.
So, what am I planting?
So far, I’ve planted a few tomato plants – I’ve had mixed results in the past with tomatoes, but I planted two different types in my garden on the advice of the lovely lady from the garden center who sells at the farmer’s market. I also planted onions, leeks, cabbages, and broccoli. I put in a row of spinach, though it may be too late to get anything but small leaves before it becomes too hot for the plants, and several rows of carrots.
The last section of my garden is going to be dedicated to cucumbers, which are my son’s favorite. I haven’t planted them yet, because until yesterday our weather was still a little on the cool side, which I’ve been told is not great for cukes. So, I’ve still got my cucumber plants growing in my windowsill in ever-elegant Red Solo cups. They’ve already started flowering, so I probably should get them to their new home soon.
The weather was just too awful to plant spring lettuce, and now that we’re into June, it’s too late to plant outdoors until fall, but I’ve got a stash of loose leaf and head lettuce seeds I’ll plant in August. Until then I’ll keep planting my lettuce indoors in containers. It doesn’t give me a huge crop, but it’s enough for hamburgers and sandwiches, even if it won’t supply me with meal-size salads.