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Gardeners Plant Seeds of Community

Dudley greenhouse sits ready for City Farm Fest. Community beds can be seen in background.
Dudley greenhouse sits ready for City Farm Fest. Community beds can be seen in background.
“Now I know why vegetables are so expensive….oh, and I have NO idea what I’m doing!” So said one of the greenhouse gardeners as she passed by me on her way out, having just prepped her bed and planted it with broccoli, kale, and culantro (an herb closely related to cilantro).

In the past two weeks the greenhouse has welcomed 27 new gardeners and their families into the space. Most are from the Dudley neighborhood, and many have children they bring to the greenhouse to help with their plots. Most are brand-new gardeners: eager to learn how to plant and care for vegetables and herbs.

In communal beds we are setting up cucumbers and tomatoes. These will grow tall on trellises next to okra, which I am eager to see grow under the shelter of the greenhouse! For years I grew okra on our urban farms and as much as I loved the beautiful plants and the reactions that people had when they saw it (“You can grow okra up here in the north?!” “Well yes, but not that well!”), the yield didn’t justify the space, and we gave it up several years ago.

Along the pathway in the tiered beds built by YouthBuild, we will be growing perennial herbs for all to share and learn about. In their 8’ x 4’ individual beds, most of the gardeners have chosen to set up their beds in the square-foot gardening method, and are carefully following the instructions laid out in The Food Project’s square-gardening manual. And when the young daughter of a gardener asked if we could grow “the yellow watermelons you sell at the market,” we seeded a bunch of containers with the watermelon seed. They will grow in the space currently occupied by the last of our transplants, which will be headed out the door in the next couple of weeks. The watermelons will spread out along the floor, hopefully yielding a beautiful crop of fruit to be shared amongst the group.

As we were cleaning up this past Saturday after a busy day of sharing the space with our annual City Farm Fest, I watched one of the gardeners who’d just gotten a lesson in seed planting show another gardener what I had taught him. Community builds quickly when gardens are involved; so much to share, enjoy and learn.

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