Our community garden.

May 21, 2015 § 7 Comments

Seminole Manor Neighborhood garden.Our community garden was Kary’s dream.

Luckily, Kary is a practical dreamer.

She hoop-jumped until the City of Tallahassee gave us the use of a chunk of land at the elbow-bend where Roberts becomes Jackson Bluff, a curve so tight school buses take down the traffic arrows along with the occasional decorative crepe myrtle.

Before neighbors began hammering together the raised beds and planting, the plot was the weedy cut-through for people headed to the nearby convenience store for Swisher Sweets, lottery tickets and Little Debbies.

Although we put up a short fence when bike tracks crisscrossed a hill of watermelons, the right to cut-through remains unchallenged.

We hope that, as they cut between the beds, walkers enjoy the green and consider becoming part of the community of community gardeners.


My husband, Ray, and I are at the garden every morning, the light slanting low over the scrim of trees along the nearby railroad track. Each of us holding a spewing hose and listening to the heavy drops patter against the broad canvas of squash leaves, we contemplate the day ahead.

And as we water the neighborhood walks by, or through.

There is the woman who talks loudly on her cell phone saying inane but cheerful things like, “I know you’re right!” and “Truer words were never spoken!” She shuttles back and forth, back and forth on the sidewalk at the edge of the garden, oblivious.

Butterfly garden.“Nice garden!” a commuter yells out a car window, flashing us a thumbs-up.

A Hispanic man with a gap-toothed grin leans on his bike’s handlebars and asks, “You got cilantro?” When we say no, his smile dims not at all. “Maybe I bring you some.”

Kids walking to catch the school bus cut across the garden. The girls stand there, knuckles on hips, backpacks hanging. Solemn and intent they watch us water.

Then the tallest girl looks back over her shoulder. “Come on,” she says. “We gotta beat the boys.” And they jog off single file.

Next come the boys, in no hurry. They stop too. The boy with a hoody tied around his waist points at a pepper plant. “That a tomato?” We talk for a while about what is what, and then one of them remembers the bus, maybe because it’s coming around the corner threatening the surviving crepe myrtles.

We are almost always the only first-thing-in-the-morning gardeners, but we check out all the beds as we water and remark on what we find growing there.

We have gardeners of all experience levels. Vernal, the geologist, a big picture guy, plans to someday plant the Sahara to create a carbon-neutral fuel source.

In our garden he’s planted about a million watermelons, one on top of the other. We’ve moved a bunch and then, giving up, have left the others to duke it out in a survival-of-the-fittest competition.

Every bed is different, interesting. Mustard, a cool weather crop is blooming in one bed, flowers waving. The gardener is holding out for mustard seeds.

Summer's first tomatoes.Our community garden is an act of faith, a testament to a belief in our ability to share and to take only if we give of our time.

Like Henny Penny the garden signs ask anyone who wants to eat to help grow the vegetables that are now beginning to spill out of the beds.

So far there hasn’t been much theft, and there have been a lot of conversations between people who would have had no common topic without the garden.

I view the world—and write about the immediate world of my neighborhood—as if it were always bathed in a flattering light.

All Kodachrome, all the time.

But I recognize, the garden is an effort to strengthen the tenuous hold we have on community in a place where money and opportunity are limited and transience trumps permanence.

There are drugs in our neighborhood, and neglect, and petty theft.

We keep an eye on that nearby convenience store and make the needed phone call when parking lot transactions look suspicious.

Eggplant in flower.We won’t be surprised if the “Please Do Not Pick” signs are ignored, or vandalism hits our local Eden, but we work in the garden and get to know each other as tomatoes ripen, and this morning I found the first tiny melon on one of Vernal’s plants.

I recognize the garden for what it is, a needed source of fresh produce, and one more connecting thread in the ever-changing and arbitrarily thrown together web of human beings that is our neighborhood.

Thanks Kary.



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