Hubby and I attended our community garden orientation Monday evening and are now the proud…er… “renters” of a half-plot for the season, woohoo!!
Being a community gardener is a little bit more involved than I would have thought it, and I do admit it’s going to be pushing me outside of my comfort boundaries a little. Probably a good thing for me though. It took me back to my days working for a non-profit as we walked up the stairs in a huge old school building in a pretty bad area of Schenectady. We could hear the kids in the afterschool programs screaming in the gym/auditorium and shook our head at the condition of the hallways and classrooms. It’s hard to imagine how the teachers do so much in such terrible conditions.
There were supposed to be 20 people in our orientation session, but only 7 showed. Nobody looked quite like us. Most looked like they needed a shower. There was this crazy-looking guy (the only one without a partner) who evidently has gardened for years (apparently not with a community garden though) and asked question after question. There was the “hippie couple” who quizzed one of the orientation leaders about a new high school program that was being set up to teach inner-city youth about commercial farming to see if only organic methods would be used. There was another couple in what seemed like dire need of a shower in the front row – very quiet. And towards the end, two African American gentleman came in, very polite. I looked at hubby and I, dressed in business clothes after a day at the office and felt ashamed that we didn’t give much more than the recommended donation (a little bit more, but not a ton). It’s going to be good to break down my prejudices. Not to say I’m bigotted or anything, but I obviously felt uncomfortable, and I shouldn’t.
The orientation leaders (there were 4 of them) explained to us how the community gardens worked, how we each would have a community chore to do as well for the whole garden, in addition to our plot. We, along with 3 other people will be helping to mow/weedwhack around the edges. They explained to us how the watering worked, what we can and cannot plant, the rules of the garden, lots of stuff. There will also be a spring work party and a fall work party to clean up the garden at the beginning and the end of the season. I admit, I feel a little bit overwhelmed. I thought I would just give some money, be given a plot, and be let loose to plant what I wanted to (within reason of course) with no interaction with anyone. Um…apparently I missed the “community” aspect of this
I’m clearly desperately unsociable!
There are 48 community gardens run by CBCG. Some are bigger than others, and we are in one of the biggest in Schenectady. They have plots over in Albany and Troy as well though! Albany’s are pretty cool – the city gives free mulch and plows up the gardens the first week of April so they can get started quickly over there!
There was such a demand for community garden plots this year, they are only giving out half-plots to new gardeners. Returning gardeners will get full plots. But do you know the size of a half-plot? When hubby and I drove out to it after our meeting, we were floored – a good 6×25 feet – easy! I thought (and would have been happy with) 4 feet of space It beats container planting on our deck!
In the dreary snowy weather of the day, hubby and I didn’t see much that would need mowing. The area around the gardens are pretty rocky – it’ll be a bitch to mow. They had told us our plot wasn’t used last year – the people who signed up for it abandoned it after awhile, but it looked like stuff HAD grown there last year. We saw stumps of some old plant (couldn’t tell what it was) and old strawberry plants. It would be great if we had strawberries growing on their own there already! The community shed looked in great condition. We checked off that we would plow and turn our own plot – if you wanted to wait till the end of May, they’ll do it for you, but hopefully we’ll get started before then. It will burn off lots of calories, if nothing else!
Hubby took some pics of the plot, but we realized when we downloaded this one, his camera is clearly broken and all the colors and quality is off. Boo!
We got to choose a few seeds to get us started. We want to plant heirlooms, so we picked out three that sounded interesting. Heirlooms are basically “old school” veggies and fruits. They’re the seeds that were planted and grown for decades, even centuries when farming was done by local people instead of the huge agri-business there is today. As a result, unlike the majority of seeds you buy today in most stores, they are not genetically modified at all. I’m a bit horrified at the thought that almost every seed packet you buy, in Lowe’s, Home Depot, Kmart, any big store – the seeds have been genetically modified. Here are three we chose, but we’ll be planting lots more to fill our 150+ square feet!
Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce
Deer Tongue lettuce, also known as Matchless lettuce, dates back to the early 1740s, whereas the Amish Deer Tongue lettuce is variety from a later era–circa 1840. The name, deer tongue, comes from its pointed leaves that are triangularly shaped with green straight edges.
Because of its heat tolerance, it is said to be less prone to bolting under high temperatures. The lettuce has a thin midrib, good texture and wonderful flavor that is pleasantly sharp. This plant is great for home gardeners as it is tolerant of different climates.
Moon and Stars Watermelon
A spectacular watermelon, with fine flavor, introduced by the Henderson seed company in 1926. The skin is deep green, speckled with hundreds of golden yellow stars and a few half-dollar sized moons. Even the foliage has yellow “stars”. The fruit is red. Melons are medium sized 25 pounds and slightly oblong.
Catskill Brussel Sprouts
I’m very excited about these! Not only are they heirloom, they’re local!
We’re busy most of the weekends of April, but every weekend in May except one is free so far! Yay for gardening!