Notes from the Garden


One of the greatest pleasures of this time for me has been in my garden. I have a community garden plot at the Mamie D Lee garden in Fort Totten, DC. Its in quite a location that is worthy of mention: in a huge field between an elementary school and a metro station. You’ll be in the middle of digging weeds out, sweating and getting dirt under your  nails and you’ll hear the familiar clickety-click-clickety-click-clickety-click of a metro train rolling by, and  an announcement: “next stop Ft. Totten, the last station stop in the District of  Colombia.” This is urban gardening.

I wanted to share some photos of my garden plot and news of its coming on. If you want to see  more photos, there’s an on-line slide show if you click here.

Its approximately 10 feet by maybe 20 feet (I’m bad at guessing distances) and I’ve squeezed in five wide rows with teeny tiny walking space rows in between, which are almost so narrow, I fall over.

Seedling madness. Sungold cherry tomatoes stretch for the light on my window sill.

Even before I got news that I had a garden plot at the community garden (I knew I was on the waiting list), I planted a few tomatoes just out of faith alone. They grew up initially in little egg cartons on my window sill then graduated to small red solo cups. Once I heard I got the plot on March 20, I kind of went bonkers and planted a bunch more seeds, which mostly all came up. As I’m not a heart-hardened seedling slayer yet, I didn’t want to thin out and kill the weak ones, so I did a lot of transplanting into just about any container I could find: two-liter soda bottle bottoms, milk jugs, cottage cheese containers, you name it. Now my window sill is a veritable greenhouse, which I manage by opening or closing the windows for daily temperature changes.

Me in my student garden last summer putting up a trellis for my Kentucky Wonder pole beans. Too bad my eyes are closed.

I took a class last year at this very same community garden through a local organization called Neighborhood Farm Initiative. We met throughout the summer last summer as the season progressed, starting May 1 and going to mid August. We dug our beds, planted, watered, learned about pests, weeded, weeded some more, staked, harvested, weeded and harvested again.  Everything we learned was organic techniques, and they were wonderfully simple.  I learned so much in that class, and about ‘urban farming’ as well. Like how to cram alot into a little plot – called bio intensive. I also personally crammed alot in because I wanted to try my hand at growing everything. Some things worked out, some didn’t. And its different every year, our instructor told us.

Nearly the whole garden plot in this picture - one row at bottom not in frame. Chard plants are in the middle.

So, my plot this year is a bit bigger than last year, but I’m still leaning towards the bio intensive-put-a lot-into-your-garden route. I’ll keep you all posted on this as it plays out, but at least at this point, I’m on my way to having zillions of tomatoes. Which is fine as I want to can them.

So back to the garden: I planted the rhubarb from my Aunt Jane in West Virginia, and it is surviving the transplant. I got inspired and planted some volunteer potatoes she gave me into some mounds of dirt I established as a berm to keep water from running out of my garden. So far they like it there and are growing. My own planted potatoes haven’t shown any signs of sprouting so now I’m doubtful I will have them and am glad I took the volunteer plants.

The latest residents: My middle bed after I transplanted Jane's walking onions on lower left, besides my chives. Middle is swiss chard, which was left over in this plot from last year and was quite an exciting find. I've since planted bush beans on right, which I hope will sprout soon.

I also transplanted a bunch of walking onions also from Aunt Jane, they are now nestled beside the chives I transplanted from my student garden plot from last year in the same community garden. I also planted beets, parsnips and some carrots about a week ago near the rhubarb. We will see how they will do. I also took the three strongest of my cherry tomato seedlings and graduated them out of the window sill and planted them into the garden, as a sort of advance guard to see if its time to move the rest on in.

Not much rain here but its supposed to rain this weekend quite a bit which we so need. its been so dry dusts blows off the unplanted plots here like a dustbowl scene from the depression. Fortunately, we have water in the garden so I’ve been able to water by hose.

The community garden also delivered a huge load of compost this past week.  This is black gold – rich and very dark, from a county compost center from last year’s leaf collections, etc. My soil was already rich and dark from last year, but every year we put this on and it makes things grow like crazy. I spread it around my plots – the empty ones sort of looking like burial plots if you weren’t a gardener.

Indy loves the garden. He just sits with me in the sun.

And last but not least, my trusty canine partner in crime, Indy is always with me at the garden. He sits in the warm sun by my plot taking in the scene – the robins warbling and catching worms, people walking back and forth from the metro to the  neighborhood and keeping an eye on all that his crazy person is doing digging in the dirt.

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