One of the things I have wanted most for myself lately is a garden. When we lived in Illinois before moving out to the bay in 2007, we lived in a condo. It was a great place, and while we could redecorate the inside however we liked, there was no gardening space. Sure I had some pots of tomatoes on the driveway, but that is not like digging into the ground and being able to plant just about anything you would want. My container gardening continued as an herb garden when we moved into our first place in Oakland. Once we moved into the second place, I had a balcony that I started up container gardening in again. While I did not get too great of results, it helped me to feel like I was still gardening in some capacity. Once we had to move for the third time, I lost my outdoor space to garden. It was something that I was determined to remedy as quickly as possible. While hunting for the current address, I saw the community garden for Emeryville. It was a very well organized garden all in raised beds. The plants in that garden are beautiful and well kept. I called to see if there was anyway that I could get in to the garden. There was of course a long waiting list. I placed my name on the list and was also directed to the Oakland Park District for their community gardening program. I contacted the head of the Golden Gate Community Garden. There was a waiting list there as well, but I was told to not panic as there may be a plot opening soon.
While on our trip across the country for the shuttle launch, I got the e-mail that informed me I would finally have a plot of my own! I was so excited to see where I was going to garden and meet all my new gardening mates. I had dreams of taking over a plot from someone that had a lot of great plants already established. I mean I am sure that whomever I was taking over from had to move or got to old to be able to take care of their space... right? I walked past great plots like this one that is next to mine. I saw beautiful flowers, vines of summer squashes, tomatoes ready to ripen in our late Bay Area summer of fall, and beans ready to be picked. Corn was a surprise to me in the garden, and all of it looked so good! I could not wait! Then.... I was taken to my plot and this is what I found:
Yikes! I was not quite sure what to make of it. If I pulled on one of the sections of the plot, the whole thing moved. I was not ungrateful by any means, but I know it was now going to be a lot of work to take over the plot from the neglect of the previous user. It was covered with lamb's quarters, which I have come to learn are edible and tasty to many people. To me, they were just a super invasive weed that had gone to seed all over the land. I wanted to get to work right away, but I was not ready that first day to start. It just seemed to daunting. I went back on Monday to start working on the plot. I pulled out the biggest of the lamb's quarters and the other plants that I could I worked for two hours on that first day. It seemed like it would never end. For every weed I chopped down with the machete or pulled out by the root, there seemed to be twenty more to come down. Once I got all the biggest stuff taken out, then there was all the grass that had taken root as well as some plants from the person who had the plot before.
I would take frequent breaks to inspire myself to keep going. One of the garden plots that I kept looking to for a boost was the plot directly in front of mine. The cosmos in this garden are a great shade of purple and would brighten my outlook. I would also go to the front of the garden and scope out a few ripe raspberries off of the community raspberry bushes. I would also just take a break in the shade and listen to all the hummingbirds zip and call through the trees and plants.
After two hours of work, this was the result... not quite where I had hoped but at least a good start. The biggest stuff was either cut down to the ground to get it out and prevent more seeds reaching the ground or it was taken out roots and all. There was still quite a bit of green matter all over the plot that needed to be raked out, and the most stubborn of the lamb's quarters needed to be dug out with a shovel. I decided to let it go for the day. Besides, I needed to get somethings done around the house, like making dinner! So, I put all the tools away, and I decided to tackle the rest of the job the next day.
I headed out for the plot with renewed vigor yesterday. I brought with me all sorts of seed packets, fertilizers, and bright eyed bushy tailed enthusiasm. I could see and end point in sight. I could see getting seeds into the ground! I was so excited. It should come as no surprise that when I get this excited about things, there is going to be something to put me back to Earth from my proverbial cloud nine. It was then that I met one of the other gardeners. She was a wealth of information and a great person to talk with and bounce off ideas. It was then that I came to the conclusion that I would not be planting anything today except weeds. Yes you heard that right, planting the weeds. My new gardening mentor explained that since the lamb's quarters had gone to seed and had seeded itself into the plot it would be better off to put my seeds for a week. I should turn over the plot, rake it, and then water it as though I had planted. As she told me she once heard from a gardening mentor: One year's seeds is seven years weeds. I am sure she is right on this one.
So while it seemed kind of disheartening to put off my planting for another week, it is a much better overall plan to let these seeds come to germination and then weed all the plot at once. That way I do not have to make sure I am only taking out weeds and not my seedlings. I set to turning over the plot. It was rather difficult as the grass and weeds had made quite the mat of roots to bust. Once I got all the dirt turned over and broken up, I raked it out to a even bed, and then raked one more time to remove any little clumps of root balls or more of the lamb's quarters stumps. I did find a few carrots, beets, and radishes that were left over from the previous plot user. Once it was all said and done, I soaked the plot well and crossed my fingers that I can get quite a few of these seeds out using this technique. I left for home feeling sore and ready for lunch... also rather sunburned. Next time I will remember the sunscreen and a shirt that actually covers my back fully rather than one that I think covers my back. You would think I would have learned this lesson by now! Look for more updates from the garden as I learn about four season growing, something new to this former Midwesterner. Till then, happy growing if you have a garden to tend or happy dreaming if you are still awaiting a plot of your own.