Diggin’ In — Why Community Gardens Are a Great Idea for Beginners

By Amy
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We moved back to the Pacific Northwest almost two years ago. For the first year, I was in complete denial about our permanency in this state, mainly because I was hoping we’d move back to Oklahoma. But as they say, “We make our plans and God laughs.

So here we are and, at least until the unforeseen future, this is where we’ll be. Settling in and planting roots in relationships and in the garden have become a priority. However, the “micro-lot” that our rental sits on doesn’t lend itself to much gardening, so we put our names on a waiting list at the local community garden and waited.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that vegetable gardening is a whole new hobby for me. I’ve always grown my favorite floral perennials, but never really dabbled into the vegetable side until this spring. Thankfully, I didn’t have to wait too long to be notified that not only were we now the new adoptive gardeners to a single plot, but we were lucky enough to garner two!

As is my personality, I jumped with both rain boots on and never looked back. And I’m so glad I did. Being a part of a local community garden has so many benefits and I’d like to share the few that have made an impression on me thus far:

Freebies: During our March volunteer cleanup day, many of the experienced gardeners brought with them tray after tray full of early spring sprouts, such as lettuces, kales, and Swiss chard starts to share with those who joined in the melee of yanking up invasive weeds, mint, and other wild growing plants that had found their way into the garden. Freebies help save money, especially for a newbie like myself who didn’t have a clue I could plant lettuce that early in the spring.

Walking Encyclopedias: For me, that’s exactly what experienced gardeners are. They can tell when to plant peas, how far apart to plant your bok choy, and give you the recipe for a homemade organic fertilizer that will make your plants look like they’re on steroids. I love those walking encyclopedias. Almost every evening I head to the garden there’s another gardener who’s more experienced and knowledgeable than I am who is eager to answer questions and point out tips and tricks to keep my little garden plots happy and healthy.

Making new friends: I will be the first to admit that when it comes to making new friends, in most settings I’m a bit gun-shy. But for some reason, when I’m in the garden and I see another gardener it’s like we’re long lost buddies from high-school and we can sit and chat about our little veggies like a couple of first time mommy’s comparing notes on which formula is best.

Giving back: I love to volunteer, I love feeding people, and I hate the thought of anyone going hungry, so it absolutely makes sense for me to garden and share with those in need. Our community does a fantastic job in allocating specific portions of the garden for vegetables to be grown specifically for the local food bank. I’ve been told that last year the goal was 1,000 pounds of vegetables and that they almost made it, having come up short by 150 pounds, which isn’t bad at all in my eyes! That’s a whole lotta tomatoes and zucchini! This year, I think our board members must have upped the ante to 1,200 pounds, which is quite a hefty goal considering our community garden is less than an acre.

Mind, body, and soul therapy: There is nothing I love more than to head to the garden late in the evening around 9 p.m. That may seem late to some, but up here in the PNW it doesn’t get dark until almost 10, but the garden tends to get quiet around 8:30 and that’s when I love to go do most of my gardening. There’s a peace and stillness that falls over the garden during that time that brings me so much joy. I’m sure my blood pressure drops and any stresses from the day simply melt away when I slowly make my way through each of the beds, pulling up weeds, watering the plants, and taking in the beauty that surrounds me. Gardening is definitely very therapeutic for the mind, body, and soul!

The Bounty: Finally, I can’t forget the bounty of what we are growing. For now, while I’m still learning, I’ve kept both of our beds filled with easy-to-grow plants, such as kale, Swiss chard, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, peas, bok choy, and of course, zucchini. Every day, I ride my bike down to the garden with my 5-gallon bucket hooked to the handle bars. Inside you’ll find my mud-stained garden gloves and favorite garden sheers waiting to be put to use. And after a few hours in the garden I return home with the evening’s dinner and lunch for the next day.

I must admit, I truly have been bitten by the gardening bug. The abundance of blessings far outweighs any mulch-spreading, bark-laying, weed-pulling community chores I need to pitch in and do. And while I am a newbie and this is my first garden and, knock on wood, so far I haven’t experienced any issues great or small, I’m already eager to make a wish-list of vegetables I’d like to try next year!