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A West Cottage Garden Sprouts


Over the course of the growing season, The Food Project staff member Allison Daminger, along with our Boston interns, will be blogging about their experiences tending two 4 ft. x 8 ft. raised bed gardens located on The Food Project's farm in Dorchester. Although Allison and the youth have learned a lot through osmosis—when you work for The Food Project, it's hard not to pick up at least the basics of growing food!—watching and assisting others is quite different from having one's own garden. We hope that reading about their mistakes and successes over the course of the growing season will encourage other aspiring gardeners to dive in with a little less fear!

Summer at The Food Project is hectic—in the best possible way—and there have been days that I forget all about my garden until midway through my bike ride home. While I don’t recommend this approach, as I’m sure my plants would prefer a steadier supply of water and tender loving care, there is one unexpected benefit to my forgetfulness: my garden continually surprises me. Its slow, steady changes multiply over the course of a few days, and I return to find it transformed. My plants aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary of course, but from my perspective as a new gardener even routine developments seem a little magical.

One Monday morning a week or so after I got all my seeds and seedlings into the ground, I returned from an especially hot weekend to find little green shoots all over the formerly barren ground. Because many of the seeds I used were two, even three, years old, I’d been skeptical that they’d germinate at all. Here they were though, proof (in my mind, at least) that plants are tenacious creatures, capable of thriving in less-than-ideal circumstances. Perhaps, I thought, I should worry a little less about my inadequacies as a gardener and trust the sun, rain, and bees to do their work without too much interference from me.

Another Monday brought a less pleasant surprise: my garden was blanketed in weeds! Though it was somewhat tedious to write up at the time, I was glad now to be able to consult my garden map. Rather than rely on my memory to distinguish the plants that belonged from the interlopers I’d need to remove, I could tell exactly what was supposed to be growing in each square. After a half hour weeding got me only halfway through the job, I resolved to make this a more regular part of my garden maintenance work.

The best surprises of all have come most recently, as my flowering plants begin to bear fruit. Tangled up in the vines that I’m attempting, with only moderate success, to train over the side of the raised bed, I recently found two miniature cucumbers! Scarcely more than an inch or two long, they were covered in the minuscule spikes that you never seem to find on waxed grocery store cukes. (Of course, any gain in prickliness is more than offset by the increased crispiness and crunch of the fresh-from-the-garden variety.) The yellow flowers dotting the cucumber vines, as well as the purple blooms on the eggplant and the whitish ones on the hot pepper, promise many more surprises to come this season. 


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