The Abandoned Garden

After some frost this weekend, I’m hoping we’re finally over the last leg of cold weather and that I can start planting next weekend. My roommates and I visited our community garden plot yesterday for our own orientation and had a great time chatting about growing plans while we did some weeding. We have some very ambitious plans for our garden… after seeing the size of our 30×20 plot yesterday, we asked our garden coordinator about renting a second plot… LOTS of planting space! Easier said than done I know, so hopefully we can keep up with all the work we have ahead of us.

Glorious piles of packets of seeds!

One of the rules at our community garden is that raised garden beds can be no more than about 8″ higher than the rest of the garden. There are two reasons for this: 1) deep trenches in the garden, if not smoothed back out well enough at the end of the growing season, will be difficult to drive the tiller through come next year… and 2) if the garden gets overgrown because it is abandoned, it will be a safety hazard for those who walk through that space in an attempt to salvage the garden plot.

These rules make sense to me, and, actually, I suppose we still could create some shorter raised beds if we wanted to, but what’s more interesting here is that the garden committee anticipates (and has a plan to deal with) garden abandoners. Garden abandoners… I hadn’t really thought about this – these are the garden renters who seem to disappear mid-season, leaving a small field of weeds that grow and grow until they creep into neighboring garden plots.

How does this happen? Why was the garden deserted? Was this a case of that pesky phrase “easier said than done?” I’m sure there are lots of us who have spring fever and are romanticizing prodigious crops of bold heirloom tomatoes ripening on the vine at the end of summer… yet you might be trying to shun away those memories of burning hot days pulling weeds until your back aches and your knees creak!

Does the garden abandoner simply lack the time to complete the garden? Most of us seem to do an excellent job of over-booking ourselves, and the leisurely garden might be the first thing we ditch. After all, gardening is for our pleasure and leisure right?

Maybe the problem, then, is how many of us view the garden as a special extra way to get food. Certainly, many of us live close to grocery stores and farmers’ markets where we can buy lots of gorgeous, delicious produce anytime. If there isn’t enough time to garden, we can get our food elsewhere, right?

But this kind of mindset misses the point. First, gardening is a great way to produce our food, save money, and eat food at the utmost absolute complete peak of freshness, right then and there in the garden. And, second, the garden, if you ask me, is a health insurance and wellness policy. This is a way to get some extra physical activity – perhaps through mandatory weeding or shoveling at times – and it’s also a way to cultivate mental wellness. Should we really feel guilty about taking time out of the week to maintain a garden that feeds us, saves us money, and potentially protects our health in so many dimensions? I’m sure I’m being dreamy and idealistic here, but might there be a few less garden abandoners if we were more embracing of the garden as a health investment?

One comment on “The Abandoned Garden

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