WHAT IS A COMMUNITY GARDEN (AND WILL THEY LET US JOIN?)

PRELUDE: the sunflower, SUMMER 2020

Before I get into what brought our family to researching what a community garden is, and whether or not we could belong to one, I should share some background on our family and gardening. As we settled into our quarantine last spring, I jumped on the gardening bandwagon. Again. We bought and made some raised garden beds, and purchased seeds, soil, and fertilizer. Our excitement at the first signs of growing was matched by our dismay as one by one our little sprouts withered and died. Even the milkweed, which I purchased while envisioning the opportunity for the boys to watch “The Very Hungry Caterpillar” come to life in our yard, died. I was officially someone who couldn’t even keep weeds alive.

On a walk one day with JJ, he quietly asked if he could tell me something that had been on his mind. “Of course,” I replied, imagining the endless number of things that could be on his mind mid-summer 2020. “Mom,” he started heavily, “I don’t think our sunflowers are going to make it.” I held in a sigh of agreement, and assured him that we’d just keep on trying.

As the summer wore on, social media displayed the bounties of friends’ gardens along with the cucumbers and tomatoes they’d harvested. With each post I’d glance to our now mostly empty garden beds with another sigh. And yet, we had one. One sunflower managed to survive! The day it finally opened we were all on watch as though we were waiting for a baby to be born. Then at last…it bloomed!!

Our one little sunflower gave us the hope we needed going into another growing season, but this time we were going to bring in some help. And that brings us to the Taylor Street Farm Community Garden.

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” – Audrey Hepburn

What is a community garden?

Community gardens are pieces of land gardened collectively by a group. They can be small or large, in schools or on roofs, private or public. Accordingly, they can also serve a range of purposes, from providing fruits and veggies to serving as an outdoor classroom.  As I was searching for farms that I could take the kids to as part of our co-education in gardening, I came across Garden to Table’s Taylor Street Farm.

Taylor Street Farm differs from your average public community garden in its education-focused mission. Their core mission is to educate the community on where food comes from and how it’s grown. Seemed simple enough, and exactly the type of place that might be able to help us figure out just what we we’ve doing wrong.

I reached out to see if we could visit, and was blown away by their helpful and friendly response. After a brief email exchange, including a disclaimer on my gardening history, I was invited to pick up plant starters for free. We were able select from a variety of veggies AND offered the opportunity to enroll in a free starter gardening course on Zoom.

At our scheduled pick up time we met Sally who taught us about the garden’s history and generously offered to share recommended gardening books for the kids (she’s a school librarian). One thing I loved about Taylor Street from the start is that families were welcome to volunteer together, something I’ve struggled to find in the past. If I can pass the Zoom class, I hope that we’ll be allowed to help on site!

But first, I need to keep our new fall veggies alive until day 1 of class…

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