Building a Community Garden: Part One
I didn’t really want a community garden. I wanted my own garden. And chickens. And maybe one mini donkey. Okay, definitely the chickens and definitely the garden.
It’s in my blood. I was raised on a little hobby farm and I equate it with the contents of a recipe box. Crucial for happiness and character building, with the roux being chickens and a garden. That is the base, the starter for all good things “home”.
As we’ve been house hunting in Southern California, we tell people what we want, in the hopes that they can recommend an area for us to find our next home. Somewhere we can plant some long-term roots. A ranch-style single family home (single story) on some land – maybe even just ¼ of an acre. Something for my country roots to take hold in. They return a suggestion, and swear, just swear we will love the neighborhood.
Joe and I set aside a weekend day, mapped out the baby’s sleep schedule so he could hit one car nap, and drove around for a solid two hours. Then we go find this elusive neighborhood we have been told is utterly perfect for us – just the thing for us. We will love it.
We show up and the houses are huge. All two story. Sure, they’re on big lots, but the lots are being eaten alive by the enormity of the houses. The “big yard” could barely host a proper game of bags.
After our last wild goose chase, I got frustrated. “What am I saying that people don’t understand? Why can’t we find the place? Why do I hate it here? What’s wrong with me?!”
My husband was no more content, but much less dramatic about it.
When we went home, I let my pouting turn to dreaming and thought, “I’m sick and tired of waiting around for the perfect yard and the perfect house. If I want to live in the country so bad, why don’t I just make it happen here and now.”
Also, Joe had been challenging me on why I wanted what I want, per the usual. Why I felt the need for chickens, and would I really garden?
So it really started like most things do, with me trying to prove something to my husband.
The Tiny Pre-Garden Garden
The next day, I marched full of confidence into Home Depot ready to get a little tiny raised garden bed. 2 feet by 2 feet would do just fine. I’ve read the Postage Stamp Garden book, and I’m ready.
I found that they had their own little pots with multiple veggies in them, all prepped and ready for me to water and watch thrive. I felt so understood by Home Depot. There were Roma tomatoes, chives, green bell pepper, basil, Serrano peppers, and cucumbers in there. In a pot that was about 16 inches deep and 10 inches wide. The master gardener working the shift that day said I could leave them in that pot forever and just to water a few times a week. Easy peasy.
I toted my mini garden home, and placed it on the south side of our house (which happens to be mostly shaded by a six-foot Redwood fence) right in between our bar-b-que and our air conditioning unit. Glamorous.
I watered my little plants, told them they were beautiful (hello, you must give them affirmations), and went on my way.
Two days later my tomatoes were wilting. I had to use the basil as it was on the edge of death. And everything else looked sad. I called my dad. His prognosis was that they all needed water, the side of our Stucco house was probably letting off heat that was burning the leaves, they may be getting root-bound, and they weren’t getting enough sun.
In the words of my great grandmother, "Oy vey".
I repotted them, moved them to the front of the house, and started watering my garden daily. I’d pull my watering can up into the sink, fill it until perfectly full, and then carefully walked it outside while trailing water drips through the house.
It was working! I started to see blooms, and I felt like a real gardener.
Eventually my little tiny garden-in-one-pot did thrive, and produced a solid two dozen tomatoes, two deformed bell peppers (we learned that tomatoes and peppers do not cohabitate), two serrano peppers, three bunches of chives, and one cucumber.
It’s all I could talk about. I felt like a verified farmer. An urban farmer! I had found a passion that was not losing steam, and I couldn’t get enough. Though, I desperately wanted more.
That was when a friend recommended I turn the patch of space in front of our townhouse into an area for raised beds. Supposedly, Joe had already recommended this to me, and I brushed it off (#marriage), so when I delivered this idea to him like I was in a sales meeting asking for venture capital, he looked completely unsurprised, and was already convinced of the idea.
Next step was the hardest: convince our Homeowner’s Association.