When I decided to start my tomatoes indoors a couple of months ago I was kind of annoyed when I opened the seed packet. I think there were a measly 20 seeds in there and I, for some reason, felt that that wasn’t enough. Fast forward 7 weeks and there I was, sitting on a deck with more than 20 plants, from my cherry tomato seeds and some others I saved from a store-bought tomato, and no space to put them in.
Tomatoes are heavy producers and I had been warned to not plant too many unless I wanted to build a canning facility to preserve them all. Plus, coupled with my lack of space, it just wasn’t feasible to plant more than 4 plants. I’m also giving a few plants away to family, but that still left me with more than 10 plants and no space. I had planned on giving them out to neighbors but they beat me to it and had already planted their tomatoes for the season. Thankfully, I remembered a trip to a community garden a few years ago and reached out to their email where a very nice gardener told me they’d love to have my plants as donations!
Along with the tomatoes, I also had around 5 or 6 bell pepper seedlings that were also going to go due to lack of space in my garden. I packed them all in a couple of cardboard boxes and loaded them in my car, ready for the trip.
The entire drive there I felt like I was giving away a little tiny piece of me, I know it sounds ridiculous, but I’d literally grown these from seed! I’d watched them and watered them and taken way too many pictures of them. It was sad seeing them go.
I arrived at the community garden and was greeted by an older gardener who was mowing the grass that grew around the allotments. I was told that that was the first work day of the season and the garden was expecting a huge amount of traffic as gardeners came in to clean up the weeds and turn the plants that had been overwintering in their containers.
She pointed me to the gardener I was set to meet, Frank, who was working with another man shoveling piles of leaves and branches into a shredder for the garden’s composter. I let him know that it was first time starting tomatoes indoors but he assured me the plants looked as good as the ones you pick up from the stores, which I thought was very sweet of him considering that I’d been to those stores and I knew for sure that mine looked a bit scragglier.
While we talked he told me that the garden works with the local food bank to produce fresh plants and vegetables to the families who receive food from them and that my plants would be going in those allotments. Typically, he said, they have to buy the plants or depend on seed donations so they welcome the donations they can get from other gardeners. And what an amazing idea! Considering how much produce these gardeners can grow with their experience and space, it’s fantastic that some of it is specifically allocated to be donated. I wish I had taken a picture of the allotment but there were some people already cleaning it up and I didn’t want to bother them.
I wish I had taken a picture of the allotment but there were some people already cleaning it up and I didn’t want to bother them, but it was lovely. About 10 or 12 containers dedicated to the food bank, a few of which had already been tilled and cleaned up for the new season. Suddenly it wasn’t so sad to see my babies go all, in fact, I was proud that they had the chance of growing for such a good cause. I handed Frank the box and he assured me that the plants would be set out that day or the next and be well on their way to producing fruit.
I decided to take the opportunity to explore the garden. Set only a few miles from our local lake, the garden is a part of our local extension service with 79 separate plots that are available to gardeners, both organic and not, in small or larger sizes. I was surprised to see that there were only a couple of vacant plots and I wish I could meet more gardeners around me! It feels like we’re a solitary bunch, or maybe that’s just me, but it’d be nice to have someone to exchange tips with locally rather than trying my luck online.
Most of the plots are filled with food crops, anything from peas, to blueberries, strawberries, and cabbage, but it’s also well decorated with flowers and I saw some of the most lovely irises I’ve ever seen there.
These were scattered all over the garden, with beautiful colors peppering the landscape and breaking up the neat rows of crops and containers.
I wanted to walk around to see what other gardeners grew because it’s hard making all of the growing decisions by myself. Some gardeners had let their plots grow wild over the winter, and I don’t blame them because I could barely talk myself into weeding my two beds and they’re sitting right in my backyard. Others had tended to some winter vegetables that were still producing even now into spring, with decorated plots with lounging chairs where they could relax and watch their fruits of their labors. One plot, my favorite by far, was incredibly well kept, with a neat post where a watering can was hanging over, wind chimes that played in the breeze, and not one plant or tool out of place. My goal!
One of the two vacant plots I noticed was an overgrown patch of mint. I noticed at least two kinds but the mess was amazing. We had a mint plant at our old house also planted in the ground because we didn’t know any better which is what I’m assuming happened to the poor gardener who put that mint in their plot. I can’t imagine who’s going to try to settle that back down and reclaim the plot but I’ll keep them in my thoughts and wish them luck!
By the end of my time there I was wishing that I could claim my own plot but with a full-time job that makes me run home to at least check over everything every day before the sun sets, it just doesn’t seem possible. I recommend anyone who doesn’t have space at home to find their local garden, and there are so many of them if you look, and join their local community. While gardening has been a fun journey to me so far, it’d be far more fun with other people to enjoy it with!