DescriptionA Northside gardener with a plot adjacent to mine gave me this advice after my first crop died. “My beans died, too,” he said. “You just have to plant more.”
“And they’ll grow?” I asked. “There’s still enough time?”
“Yeah,” he said. He was on his third crop. The late wet spring had rotted the first two but he didn’t seem as upset as I was. He didn’t seem upset at all. But then every phase of my garden had been fraught with worry.
I worried about my seed spacing, how much water, how much compost. I watched with anticipation as the first seeds bumped through the soil then stood helpless as their leaves paled, curled and died, certain I’d failed them. I hadn’t planted them right. There’d be no beans for dinner this summer, the one crop I was sure I couldn’t screw up.
My husband and I have been through a rough few years. Prolonged illness and job loss resulted in bankruptcy and the eventual loss of our home. In order to pay bills we had to sell the few paintings and pieces jewelry my mother left me when she died, we pawned guitars, we sold books. Even after we found an apartment we could afford, we sold our sofa and our dining room table to buy groceries and then we relied on the food bank to get us through the month. It was only luck that we rented a place across the street from the Northside Community Garden and if it hadn’t been so close, we probably wouldn’t have thought of putting our names in for a plot.
Every morning and night, we walked our dog past the patchwork field of garden plots that had been put to bed for winter and wondered if having one of them next season might help us miss our yard less. There was a picnic table and a little red shed and wood-pole tipi that looked like it might have been covered with hops. Sometimes we walked along the paths, picking our way through the asymmetrical handiwork and stake-and-string fences to look at snow-covered furrows, straw bales and the crows picking treats from the compost pile. At some point in January it was decided: we’d apply for a plot.
At first we worried we wouldn’t get one, but the Northside garden was expanding to meet the needs of the neighborhood and we were awarded a 15X15 plot in the new section, full of rocks and quack grass, but to us it felt like a homestead. We spent the first few weekends of spring filling buckets with rocks and weeds but by the end of the summer we were filling them with the vegetables we’d grown. In fact, we had so much food we were able to share our produce with two other families and even gave some to the food bank. As a result of our first harvest season, we filled our cupboards, refrigerator and freezer from our garden and even as we approach a new planting season, we still have some bags of green beans from that second planting I was sure would never grow. We no longer rely on the food bank to get us through the month and things are looking up for us. The Northside Community Garden has been a source of food for us but it’s also been a source of hope and renewal and we’re grateful to be a part of it.
-Story contributed by Naomi via Garden City Harvest in Missoula, Montana.