Saturday, May 14, 2011

Food Gardens, Part 1

Food is a great common denominator among men.  No matter who you are you have to eat.  This makes food gardening something than spans cultures and generations beautifully.  Where and how we grow our food is defined by the climate we live in, the space we have available and the horticultural practices of our culture.

In my neighborhood there are so many varied cultures that I get a world view of gardening without having to go very far.  You can also see families working in gardens together now, which in part is due to the real need for them to do so and because of the health benefits.  I for one am very happy to see this return to home food production.  Its a great place for kids to learn and parents to invest in their children.  But not everyone has a place to grow food.  Today there are many options beginning to open up for people who need somewhere to grow food.

The Baker Garden is wall to wall edibles with a sprinkle of pretty flowers, chickens and ducks

My friends the Bakers who have space are sharing their yard with the participants of a local food bank that serves the working poor.  People who participate in the food bank are encouraged to help in this garden as a part of their required payback hours which help keep costs for the food bank down so more can go into food and services for the families.  Besides the wall to wall garden the Bakers have chickens and ducks which help with pest control, eat weeds not fit for composting and provide fertilizer for the garden so the garden is becoming self sustaining as it helps feed the gardeners.

Signs of children in the garden...a very good thing.

Speaking of families its not just parents or grandparents tending to the food garden, the kiddos are right along side, sowing seeds and tending the garden too.  The Baker kids are all in the garden with mom and dad and find it quite the adventure.  There is something very sweet about this passing along of  gardening skills from one generation to another.

Currents are becoming more popular again in gardens but many people aren't familiar with them

A great benefit to gardening with others in a garden like the Baker's is that a person gets introduced to wonderful unusual vegetables and fruits they might never have tried growing otherwise but have probably seen in the stores or maybe eaten.  There is a lot of advise at the Baker Garden on how to grow and use it all and even pot lucks where its all about sampling the fruits of their labors.

Cardoon, and Artichoke are stunning beauties that people are still learning about.

Variegated Land Cress and French Tarragon, a portion of my little investment in the Baker garden

Sharing plants is another beautiful thing that happens when we garden together.  I don't really know if there is such a thing as solitary gardening or if there is, I'll probably never practice it because I love to share what I grow and every gardener I know does too.  There has to be something in the soil...what's up with that?

The community garden at Senn's Dairy Park, bamboo stake trellising

Another great resource are community gardens and they are popping up everywhere. These are good sized plots that are normally divided up into smaller personal plots which are then rented out to folks for one year. 

Gorgeous leafy greens in fabulous colors that made my mouth was hard to resist snitching them but I was good.

Many apartment dwellers and even some people who have gardens but need more space are growing on use these types of sites.  There are a diverse group of people in the community gardens I've seen in my city and I find it so inspiring to see how others garden as its such a far cry from the boring row gardening we had at home when I was growing up.

Chives, Dandelion and veggies running to flower in vacated plots made this look more like a meadow than a garden.

One sad thing about community gardens is that people start out with really good intentions and sometimes don't use the space to their advantage, sowing their crops but as the weather gets nice or life gets in the way they don't make it back to take care of what they began and their plot will run to weeds which can then spread to other gardens on the site.   Most often it is from neglect unfortunately and not some illness or other life circumstance.  And it seems such a waste to me as there are waiting lists for plots in almost every community garden in town.

Garden box made with composite decking for those of us who can't bend over so good.

There are also raised box plots for those gardeners with physical challenges. I happen to really like the garden boxes myself because the older I get the further away the ground seems to be.  When I was visiting this garden, a fellow from a neighboring plot was turning the soil in all four of the garden boxes for whomever was going to garden there this year.  That's another beautiful thing, shared labor.  I have heard stories of plot holders who became ill and their neighboring gardeners coming to their aid tending and harvesting and delivering the vegetables to them in their time of need.  Now that us just the coolest thing!

Whenever we garden in community settings there is another harvest experienced as new friendships are forged, recipes, plants and wisdom are shared and we learn more about how to love and care for our neighbors.  Now that is a harvest that will last a lifetime.

Over the next few weeks I hope to introduce you to some other food gardens and small farms that serve to educate and feed the people in my community.

Copyright © 2011 by Patty Hicks

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