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How to Get Kicked Out of a Community Garden


Community gardening is all the rage. It’s the perfect way to combine environmentalism, local food, and good neighboring in one fell swoop. 

I was thrilled when I saw the hand painted invitation on a piece of plywood hanging from the chain link fence of an empty lot on my street.

I was the first one to respond, the organizer told me.

When that first workday rolled around, I walked over to the lot and checked in. I met a lovely woman named Perla who was willing to decipher my makeshift Spanish and chat with me about the neighborhood, gardening, and her life. She even promised to teach me how to make tortillas a mano (by hand) – something I had always wanted to learn how to do.

I planted four stalks of corn, but ants enjoyed three of them since it was an entirely organic gardening community. Of course, Perla made me promise not to “tell” when I saw her spray ant and roach killer directly on her plants, which I knew would eventually make their way to the community compost. I didn’t tell, and she had terrific looking vegetables.  

I also got to know her sweet son. Rico would sit next to my garden and talk to me about soccer in Spanish but then sing English Christmas songs to me that he’d learned in school. As time went on, I watched him grow taller and witnessed the magnificent power of children to learn a second language as his time in public school honed his English.  

My husband and I also chatted with a man from Guatemala, who appreciated our fond connection to his home country.  He explained to me how he had created a grid in his garden. He secretly let me try a natural sugar he had grown, begging me not to tell others. He was certain everyone would steal it if they found out! 

Another family – a dad with two daughters – shared their woes as birds nibbled away at their blueberries. They also shared their excess of herbs that grew like wildflowers in their full and delicately cared for plot. 

It wasn’t long before I received an email telling me my section of the garden was “under planted and under cared for” and that they would like to give my plot to someone else who could make better use of it. (Actually, I think it was Perla since she was displaying stellar gardening skills.)

At first I was hurt. I had been the first person to sign up after all. But, it turned out I was more interested in the community part than the gardening part. Most everything I had grown ended up in the compost pile. Bugs had eaten it. Or I’d waited too long to water it, or weeds had choked it to death.

I suppose I was in the garden a lot, but doing very little actual gardening.   

And so I accepted my dismissal from the garden, but I remember it fondly as the place I met terrific neighbors, heard a wonderful child sing, and even did manage to grow enough zucchini to share with anyone who would take it.

Are you into community gardening? 

Photo credit: Zsuzsanna Kilian


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