Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Secret Garden Society



In our suburban area there is a walking trail called the Green Bay trail. It is a very peaceful place to walk especially in the early morning or later evenings. The trees hang over the trail in spots giving a feeling of seclusion. Ocasionally you’ll find deer walking the trail.

The path is bordered by a rail road track on the west side which is a commuter train taking people to and from the city. Starting in Wisconsin.

On either side of the trail there are gardens. Intermittantly dispersed along the trail on both sides. For years, I had lived in the town and walked the trail never really thinking much about the gardens or who owned them. 

One day a few years ago, I saw a person tending to one of the gardens and they became more real to me. Then I started inquiring about who owns the gardens and how does one go about getting one. Turns out it is actually a community garden. The citizens took over the plots or made their own plots and eventually made fences with gates to keep out the critters and pilfurers. The gardens range from elaborate to basic and one even looks like a garden junkyard. I was told by one of the gardeners that they have owned their plot for 40 years. I was intrigued. Sounded mysterious. I checked with our city hall to double check and they said if a garden is empty and it looks like no one is tending to it you can take it over but you cannot create new plots. Ok fair enough. I was on a mission to find some land.

There was a plot the kids and I had started to clear and I was attempting to plant in it. After doing some work clearing I realized with no fence I would be doomed. Between the rabbits, deer and bugs I would be wasting my time. 

Later I noticed an overgrown garden with a large fence. Bingo I'm in. It was definitely abandoned. The weeds were as tall as myself.  I went inside the gate to check it out. While inside I wondered who was here before me? Who put the stones in a semi circle and planted the irises that were gasping for air? Who planted the beautiful berry bushes I was about to uncover?   Who started the garden and where did they go. There were rusted tools in the corner under a wooden bench filled with cob webs. I wanted to know the story. 

Someone said the person that owned it moved to Germany.   Underneath the weeds I could see raspberry bushes with berries. There were so many weeds they were being strangled. The rescuer in me had to do something. My first project was to cut the weeds down to see what was underneath. I cut them down as far as a I could and then over the next week after taking the kids to school I would go to the garden and dig. Blisters for sure, but there was something about doing this work that felt good. I had a purpose. To save these berries. Oh and selfishly eat them. After I got down to where it could be tilled, my husband rented a rototiller from home depot and did the nasty job of aerating the soil. The roots from the weeds were so thick it kept getting stuck and we had to untie them from the rotors. I was freaking thinking he was going to lose a finger.

It was hard work. Like farming, you were tired at the end of the day. The job was done and now we had to plant. The berries were loving that they could see the light of day and were going crazy. I planted some vegetables in rows and was very excited about the big garden I was going to have.

We planted pumpkins, tomatoes of various sizes, peppers and cucumbers.

The one problem with the gardens was water. There was none to speak of. Well some people had elaborate water systems and one guy George offered to share his. I took him up on it. There was a path next to his garden down the hill by the tracks. Follow the cinder block steps down and on the right there was a hose, green rubber sawed off at the end and hanging from a tree limb. He said you can take it down but be sure to hang it up right or else the water will all be lost. I was a little creeped out when going down there. My husband always told me to beware of the pitch fork killer. Seriously.

It was a capillary system that came from rain barrels where he collected the rain to water his gardens.

I used his water on occasion but not too often because I respected all the work he put into his elaborate system. Didn’t want to take advantage.

I carried water from home in milk gallon jugs.

The summer I had the garden we had the driest hottest summer in years. Needless to say the plants did not survive, except the berries which thrived. I did get one tomato and a cucumber but gardener extraordinaire I am not. I did learn quite a bit about gardening and have great respect for farmers. It is not easy. We enjoyed the berries all summer. I made berry smoothies, scones, and just plain in a fruit salad. There is nothing like picking a fruit or vegetable from a vine and eating it. My kids got to enjoy them too and learn that food does not come from a plastic clam shell it grows in the dirt and takes a lot of work.

No comments:

Post a Comment