Urban food gardening, part 4: site maintenance

Thinning early seedlings.

Time moves slowly in the first weeks after sowing seed. You’re watering very carefully, waiting for the first tiny greens to break through the soil. You watch for growth, measured daily, and write veggie due dates in your calendar. With an eagle eye, you look for the small holes and ragged edges that betray pests, searching under leaves without success. Occasionally you thin, transplant, and hill up. You try to keep busy.

In this time of waiting, you get to know things.

You get to know more about where you are. This place that you chose to commit to for the coming seasons has its own rhythms and expectations that are separate from yours. Maybe this is especially so when your garden is in the public realm.

After the weekend, for example, there is more litter. Not in the garden, mind you, but around it.  Sometimes litter takes the form of cigarette butts, sometimes it’s squashed ketchup packets or rubber gloves, sometimes abandoned furniture. Maybe the furniture has only happened once, but it was very large as far as litter goes.

You get to know the neighbours. The people who live somewhat nearby who walk their dogs, pick berries with their kids, collect cans, and just hang out. You find out that you’re not the only who picks up the litter. You become impressed with the shared commitment to the neighbourhood, watching a neighbour painting over some uninspired graffiti to “help spruce things up.”

The garden at 39 days: insanely exuberant radishes and happy lettuce transplants.

Invariably, the people who walk by have something nice to say about the garden. “Nice work!” “What beautiful straight rows!” and “They’re sprouting up real good, eh?” You might start to enjoy talking to strangers.

You also get to know yourself. You discover that growing food feels really good, and that you’re really excited to see your lettuce transplants are thriving and the chard stems are as golden yellow as the seed catalogue promised. Maybe you had an inkling that this would happen—that growing your own food would feed your soul. Or maybe you didn’t, but it’s good to find out. A little site maintenance never hurt anyone.

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2 Responses to Urban food gardening, part 4: site maintenance

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