Before and After – Community Garden Plot

By REESE AMOROSI

I love my kitchen garden at home, but like many rowhome-dwelling growers, I crave more space. After five years on the waiting list, I was thrilled to finally score a plot in my area’s community garden. This before and after collage shows what my plot looked like when I first saw it, and then what it looks like now as a raised bed.

The photos span four months: shot #1 was taken on April 4, 2016, and shot #6 was taken on August 8, 2016. I’m not sure if you can tell from the photos, but when I inherited the 8×7 foot plot it was a shallow pit, around 6-8 inches lower than the surrounding ground, and prone to flooding during heavy rain. After I weeded the space, I added wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of soil and compost to make it level, then after the frame was built I added more to raise it another five inches.

In shot #3 you can see I left the purple deadnettle in place for the bees, then when it was time to work on the plot, I moved it to my garden at home. In zone 7b, purple deadnettle is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring. I suppose many people consider it a weed, but I look forward to its annual return: it adds color to the end-of-winter landscape, it provides early-season food for pollinators, and it’s edible for humans, too (but as always, do your research before putting unfamiliar plants in your mouth).

Shot #6 shows the plot in full swing. I grew four types of heirloom eggplant – Long Purple, Lao Green Stripe, Rosa Bianca and Casper (with Mesclun lettuce planted between the rows) – surrounded by zinnias, marigolds, chives and lavender. I now garden year-round – for winter 2017 this plot contained assorted heirloom radishes, carrots and beets, Lacinato kale, Flamingo chard and Tatsoi. It all thrived despite the bitter cold and occasional snowstorms, and provided many delicious meals.