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From the Twin Cities

  • Subject: [cg] From the Twin Cities
  • From: adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Fri, 24 Mar 2006 13:19:16 -0500

From the Twin Cities.....

Find the Right Gardening Partner
Thursday 23 March @ 15:59:55
by Sid Pranke

I've done the community garden thing over the past six years in several
different gardens in St. Paul, ever since I sold my house and returned to
apartment living. It strikes me as unusual that the people I've met there and
the experiences I've had have made such strong impressions on me. I'm not sure
why I'm so surprised at how much I've enjoyed hanging out with other
gardeners: maybe because I'm from North Dakota and I'm missing that connection
to the land and sky, and hanging around people with that similar affinity
helps fill that void.

The hardest thing about gardening, in my opinion, is preparing your soil.
Having someone till the garden, or renting a roto-tiller yourself for the day,
is the best investment you can make to minimize your frustrations and preserve
your strength over the long run. One of my gardening partners, Joe, tricked
his three large dogs into helping him till our garden plot by hiding pieces of
hot dogs in the soil. Dirt went flying, and Joe stood alongside with his
spade, to help the process along by turning the soil over and over again.

Constructing raised beds also can make things easier on you; there's less
bending and twisting involved. And a good garden stool has been indispensable
to me; it makes gardening feel more like a labor of love and less like pure
back-breaking labor.

I shared a garden with my friend Sara one summer. We chipped in on the plot
and tilling fees, and staked out our own territory. I decided to plant a lot
of tomato plants-and I screwed up pretty much right away by not watering the
seedlings well enough, and then waiting two days too long before I came back
to check on my plants. They had all shriveled up, so I had to start all over
with new seedlings.

Sara was grooving over our garden-she made little signs with sticks attached
that said "LOVE POTATOES' and "PEACE PARSLEY" and placed them in the garden
where those plants were growing. The possibilities are amusing and endless
with this little sign idea. How about "Strung-out String Beans" or "Lascivious
Lima Beans." Cool.....

We got a lot of good vegetables and herbs from our garden that summer. And
come the harvest moon, Sara and I were out socializing at a local rock club.
Around midnight, we decided to leave the club with a few nice guys we had been
talking to. So we all walked to our garden about a mile away to dig up a few
potatoes and whatever else struck our fancy-one of the fellows and I had
reached the garden first. A stone wall about four feet high separated the
garden from the street. Just as I and this cute fellow with muscles were about
to scale the wall, a police car chirped at us and the officer yelled to us
from his open window-"What are you guys doing?" I said, "We're harvesting."
The officer eyed us over, hesitated and then said, "Have a nice harvest," as
he tore off again down the street. We both started laughing and ended up
making out in the dirt before Sara and the others got there. Cool.....

If you're a little bit lazy like I am, it pays to have the right gardening
partner. The best gardening partner I believe I will ever have was Joe. Let's
just say that Joe is unconventional. He's known to say that he "was meant to
work with soil" as if it was ordained-and I believe it was. He asked me to
join him at a community garden plot he was squatting on. (He paid the group
well for using their water supply but had never officially signed up.) I said
sure, not knowing what to expect. I walked into his garden, which he had been
working on a few months already (it was now May). I saw the most beautiful
dirt I had ever, ever seen. It looked alive. It was heavily composted, and
filled the many raised beds Joe had constructed with minimal found materials.
Awesome. Joe told me how he had planted clover and winter wheat and turned the
soil over many times to ensure that the organic material was evenly
distributed. How lucky was I to have a gardening partner like Joe? The soil
was completely weed-free, and stayed that way all summer long. What had
started out as really crappy soil had been transformed into organically-rich
soil crawling with earthworms. We constructed fencing, trellises, wigwams-all
for the plants to hang from and over and through. I would often go the garden
after work-sometimes I would get there before Joe did. I would be checking
which plants needed watering, and if they did, I would scoop up a large
watering can-full of rainwater that Joe had stored on site through a
still-confusing, but magnificent system of tubing that caught the rain and
funneled it into a holding container for our use. Again, awesome.

I knew when Joe was headed toward the garden by the sounds of his dogs
rustling through the prairie grass next to the railroad tracks. (Why are so
many community gardens located next to railroad tracks? Maybe because the land
is cheap and generally unwanted?) Joe's dogs would be tethered to his bicycle,
so Joe "mushed" his way to the garden. It was Romantic with a capital R. Alas,
it was not to last. We got kicked out of the garden the next season; we think
it was because the garden committee was jealous because we had the best
garden. And it was. That's our story and we're sticking to it. ||

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