I registered, um, I mean Steven took the initiative to register my name for a community garden plot after we moved to Potrero Hill in San Francisco about eight years ago. I’d wanted one for ages! But every time I looked at the SF community garden website I just felt dismayed by the number of people that were ahead of me on every list: about 50 or so. It seemed impossible. So, silly me, I just kept dreaming about growing my own veggies someday vaguely in the future. Steven’s more pragmatic. It only takes a moment to join the list, and who knows? Perhaps that’s another kind of dream. I dithered for about three years then waited for five on the list, so it was a test of patience and fortitude. Even so, it turns out that the community garden dream came true faster than I’d imagined possible.
We were so happy about our first plot despite its puny size. As soon as we got the green light from the garden coordinator we started digging, revolving the dirt, bringing in new top soil and uprooting weeds in that cold, sunless and wet December. Steven’s parents came for visit that month and we took them there. They were excited about it and not too long afterward, Steven’s mother, Lynda presented me with few books on organic gardening. Very cool! Thanks again for the useful gift.
Since it was winter, the first thing that we tried to grow was French radish. They’re so cute, and crunchy, tasty and mostly sweet. The roots are white at the bottom and red at the top. You know, the pretty kind. Per package instructions, they thrive in cold weather. What the instructions failed to mention was the voracious appetite of all the birds! I was a tad upset when they were devoured before we had time to pick them. But looking at the bright side, I think we made some winged creatures happy and I truly appreciate waking up every morning to the free avian concert right off my bedroom window. It’s all good and I mean it, especially because we registered for multiple gardens and our number kept coming up!
A few months later I got a thrilling email from the community garden we wanted in the first place. When Dan, then the garden coordinator, showed us the new plot I was smitten. It was perhaps 2 to 3 times the size of the first one, in a more established garden with incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Twin Peaks, the Mission and Civic Center areas of San Francisco, all an improvement. So we switched. It’s not all a bed of roses. The place is really windy. So windy that I was contemplating getting a few sheets of plexiglass to break it a bit. Over the last year we grew many different veggies. It’s incredible how fecund the land is. Right now it is dominated by fava beans. Really the place is like an unruly beard or even a small jungle. Fava beans are a delicious vegetarian source of protein. I love eating the whole young pod deep fried in tempura batter or just eating them shelled and puréed. This is my absolute favorite recipe. And now’s the time of the year to eat enjoy them. We planted the whole thing to fava both because we like the beans but also they’re supposed to fix nitrogen in the soil, thereby revitalizing it.
We were looking forward to harvesting a lot of fava from the garden and then move on to a summer crop. But then three weeks ago during our spring garden meeting, the unimaginable happened: it was announced that one of the gardeners had surrendered her plot after moving to Oakland. Hers is one of the biggest there: about 23 feet by 11 feet. Huge! The first proposal was to split it up to allow more gardeners in. But that was voted down after someone suggested that gardeners working in larger plots would be more motivated and stable members of the community. Plus it’s sort of a reward for those who stuck it out in smaller plots, as they can transfer. Plus, from the coordinator’s point of view, more plots means more individual gardeners to ‘take care of.’ I‘ve always looked at the bigger plots with a bit of envy. I’ve been happy we ours, but more is more, right? Next to vote on was the reassignment of this large plot, number 17. I raised my hand immediately, and yippie, I got it!
The new plot is more than twice the size of our last one and probably 5 to 6 times bigger than the first. It took us two entire weekends to cut down the weeds, remove the many rocks and debris, build a new fence, replenish it with top soil, prune some bushes, redesign the plot and plant. We would come home exhausted, covered in dirt with muscle pains in places that we didn’t even know existed. That’s why our blogging has slowed down in recent weeks. We hardly had time to shop for food, let alone write about it. But it is totally excellent!!!
We preserved some of the original plants and added several more. It already had some Swiss chard, a small rosemary bush, a Buddha’s hand tree, some artichoke and rhubarb plants as well as a few herbs and flowers. We planted about eight kinds of tomato, some zucchini, Japanese eggplant, broccoli rabe and some edible flowers to attract bees and other insects.
I’m thrilled with the new plot. I’m exhausted, too. It does actually hurt having to move, though everyone knows that. Now, like farmers worldwide, I hope that the weather keeps so our plants can flourish.