For the past two summers, I have tended a 40-by-60-foot community garden plot at Amethyst Brook Conservation Area, two miles from our house. It was the first vegetable garden I was completely responsible for, after many years of Betsy making most of the major decisions on our backyard garden. It was a kind of starter garden for me, and now I’m giving it up.
I sure put a lot of work into this garden! I pushed 12 wheelbarrow loads of manure (three minutes each way) to try to improve the sandy soil, which lacked organic matter. I created 19 beds, found logs to put on the borders, and carried in cardboard and wood chips to put on the paths .
And the weeding and watering! I would walk down to the brook and fill up four gallon jugs countless times, though I got the impression that when I poured the water on the garden, it was merely going underground to rejoin the brook. The persistent weeds defied my feeble attempts at mulch.
The simple life it was not!
There were wonderful things about my garden. Last year I liked having a place to retreat after my retirement, and I enjoyed the sound of the brook close by. It was fun to exchange gardening ideas with Shavahn Best, who tends the adjacent plot. I had some success with spinach, beans, butternut squash and eggplant (hope that thief is enjoying them!).
But I concluded that for all the work and aggravation, there wasn’t enough fun and vegetables to make it worthwhile. Everything I planted was vulnerable to attacks by insects, and it was hard to keep up with them from two miles away. Because of the sandy soil, I had to go there and water every other day when it didn’t rain. If I added massive amounts of organic matter every year, in five or ten years the garden might be productive, but I’m not waiting around to find out.
So I’m going to let someone else pay the $35 annual fee for this garden plot next year, and good luck to them. Betsy and I have created two new vegetable beds in our side yard, which is undergoing a massive overhaul. Betsy will make the decisions and do most of the work on the permaculture gardens in our front and side yards, and I’ll take more responsibility for the backyard annual vegetables.
To me, it makes more sense to garden close to home.