Grit Blogs > Joy in the Journey

The Ogden Community Garden: Planting a Seed

By Jennifer Nemec

Tags: Gardening, Community garden,

A photo of Jenn NemecI never thought it would be possible for me to be excited about a community garden. Planting a seed and watching it grow had never been high on my list. I was always looking forward to the next thing, never wanted to wait for anything. (Never my mind on where I was, what I was doing.) The theme of this year has been patience, however, and I've suddenly found that the time it takes for a seed to sprout and become viable feels much shorter than it did in my misspent youth.

Sunflower starts I planted.

I think part of my problem has been my perceived black thumb. Mountain Woman and I have things in common – not the least of which is, how did she say it? “There are those of us who know everything we touch turns brown. ... I walk into a nursery and plants shrivel as soon as I glance their way.” There was at least one incident in grade school with a plant in a Dixie cup, and probably another with a potato or an avocado seed.

Sunflower starts

And then there was the fuchsia. I still mourn the fuchsia just a little. I was living with my grandmother during graduate school, and the sweet guys I was working for part-time bought me the most gorgeous fuchsia for Secretary's Day (we still called it that back then). They knew me well enough not to hand me a bouquet of posies, but ... instead they picked out a touchy plant to give me. Lucky for the fuchsia, my grandmother took charge of it. I swear that plant had a more detailed social calendar than any human: a light misting first thing in the morning in the breakfast nook, then tea on the porch from 10 to 11:30, then back inside for cooler indirect sunlight during the midday heat – you get the idea. I swear it survived for years in a hanging basket in our living room. Then Grandma went into the hospital for about 10 days, and it was about day 6 before I remembered the fuchsia. It was brown and dead by the time I got to it. My fate as a black thumb seemed sealed.

Ogden Garden before we started

 But somehow when the call went out to help with the Ogden Garden I thought maybe I could help. I started thinking about the gardens I remember helping with as a child.

The first things we planted, sunflowers.

Picking and shelling peas (mmmm, fresh peas), pulling weeds, snapping beans. I felt like I spent hours and hours snapping beans – but how I'd love to sit still for an evening of conversation and snap beans now. (I know, Mom, all I did then was complain.) I remember how beautiful the dill was, the feathers of the asparagus late in the season. Rhubarb with the dirt still on. These images called to me.

The garden ready for seeds, with a few small plants put in.

Plus, what a great opportunity, some of the people who work here are well-known for their gardening abilities (Cheryl Long, editor in chief of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, for example) – they’ll protect the plants from me, right?

Ogden Garden with a few plants

The photos in this post show our progress to date. Cheryl helped me plant sunflower starts (it was crazy how worried I was about those plants). We started with the grass next to the sign out front. We removed the grass, laid out our paths, added compost, tilled the compost in, and have finally started planting. (I have a new appreciation for anyone who handles sod.) The Kansas wind is taking its toll on our first baby plants, but I'll keep you posted on how they do.

5/21/2010 8:10:49 AM

Your fuchia story reminded me of something I did when I was a kid. My grandma had a beautiful clematis on the porch in a big ole pot. Well I took to spraying it with weed killer so nothing would get in there and make it sick.....Do I need to say how it died a slow and painful death? Well tanning my hide doesn't cover it. Turns out she had nursed that plant for like 10 years and I killed it. So I had to go buy her a new one. Darned if it didn't grow and bloom like crazy for 15 years, when she moved. You know maybe that is why I hate round up so much, it makes your butt hurt!

k.c. compton
5/5/2010 4:58:49 PM

Yeah, and now for the rest of the story. We have large clods of dirt all the way down the corridor from where someone who shall remain nameless worked in the garden and then came inside with mud on his boots. But hey, at least the garden is coming together and looking quite garden-like, albeit completely whipped by the wind. Reminds me of when I lived in Wyoming and the wind would blow 40 mph for two weeks straight. I ended up planting tomatoes and basil in large containers and moving them around my yard on a dolly to position them out of the wind and in the sun as much as possible. This year, I'm sticking with herbs in pots, and one container of cherry tomatoes. --KC

5/4/2010 11:41:49 AM

Hi Jenn, I think you will do just fine with the gardening. You know practice makes perfect. Then... come on down this way to practice some more! I can always use an extra weed puller. We have a huge garden going on with plans to freeze, can, and preserve. Good luck with the garden. Have a great day. Gafarmwoman Pam Life on a Southern Farm

nebraska dave
4/30/2010 11:53:27 PM

Jenn, I have to tell you that all my inside plants do wonderfully well. They never die and always look great. They are also very fake. There are some really good looking fake plants. All that’s required is a good wash under the faucet a couple times a year to get the dust off. Hey, works for me. I’m the best green thumb fake plant growing around. Patience is not exactly one of my virtues. I planted potatoes this year and just couldn’t take it any more. I had to dig around in the dirt to see if they were sprouting or just what was happening under that black nutrient rich soil. It turns out they are doing just fine but taking their sweet old time to come up out of the ground. It couldn’t be that I planted them a bit too early could it. Nah that just couldn’t be true. It sounds like you have the best of advice around you. You are off to a good start. I hope all your gardening efforts will turn out great this year. Keep us updated on the great Grit gardening experiment.

cindy murphy
4/30/2010 7:18:11 PM

Hi, Jenn. I'm sorry - but your fuchsia story made me laugh out loud. I can garden (I'd better be able to; my job pretty much depends on it), but for the life of me, I can't keep a plant inside the house alive. Once they get inside the door, they become Hubs' responsibility. Hope the garden goes well. Looking forward to hearing more about it as the season progresses.

mountain woman
4/30/2010 6:09:11 AM

Oh, it's so exciting you're going back to garden in a community garden! I just feel certain this time you are really going to enjoy it. I smiled when I read your story about the fuchsia. I loved those plants and kept bringing them home but they all met their end quickly so I gave up. You have such wonderful, knowledgeable people to guide you and it's going to be fun reading more and seeing the pictures. I loved seeing your baby plants. P.S. - I always think of you as such a kind person from all your email assistance so I'm glad we share a kinship with our black thumbs of the past :-)

nancy retired
4/29/2010 7:02:43 PM

I knew you had gardening in your genes! I bet you didn't know even Grandad gardened! He took me to the back yard with a salt shaker to eat a warm tomato in the time I hardly remember. Do you remember the black snake that kept the varmints down in the garden? Or staking the dogs by the sweetcorn patch to keep the coons away? Or your mother running the garden tiller with a baby in a backpack? Aunt Alice always liked to plant Tithonia (Mexican Sunflower) in the heat and wind of Kansas. She thought it could take it. You really should have a teepee of pole beans. It would be fun as well as productive, and look great in the yard at the Ogden Press.