Mentee Blog #3 -Sheila Dobie
I would like to title this piece as – “ Finding growing ground where ever you can!” and that plantings for seeds can happen in some of the most unlikely places.
It has been a turbulent fall time for me – with none of the grounding and satisfaction that comes with harvest and putting food by- seeing the results of a the growing season. I sold the farm. And all of what that means with a very complicated moving process, then the sadness of being landless.
What this has done has made me count my blessings. I have known this would happen sooner or later – the farm has been for sale for 3 years – because of complications in my personal life, and to cope I have widened my view on where to grow, for food and for seed. This year, along with the farm plantings and another in Midway, I tried three plots at our Community Garden. This proved to be a very happy venture. I’d like to tell you more about it.
I planted varieties that I knew would be okay with the unknowns around me – of multiple activities in a community garden where anything goes – any possible bolted plant could cause havoc with seed purity etc. So I chose self-pollinating varieties; more of the beans that I had seeded in two other sites in the region ( beans that had been grown in our valley for 10 years or more), and a “wasabi lettuce” that I had no idea about, and some beets with the hopes they would do well and be seed stock for next year. Also, I planted an amaranth that Patrick Stiener had passed along to some of us at the Richmond conference – calling it Chocolate Amaranth… How Could I Resist!!!
So there I was, very late in May, planting my community garden boxes – raised beds with automatic watering. It was very luxurious. I could work them in minutes – dressed in my town skirt on a lunch break! They are boxed beds about 3’ wide and 15’ long, 2’ deep. And it worked – very well. I even left for a month in July – only to come back and find them thriving (the automatic watering was a god send). I had planted heavy so the weeds were few. I got back just in time for a major trellising session – and they were set for the final leg of their season. Seed harvest was plentiful.
Now in November I look at the substantial harvest of seeds from the amaranth, the wasabi lettuce turned out to be a lovely hot mustard leaf with the red speckle (delicious), beans were okay – though would have done better with a lighter planting, and the beets are now snug under mulch where I will keep them overwinter for what I hope will be a great seed crop next year. This was a worthwhile choice, and one that I would recommend to anyone – even with their own plantings a home. It allows us to rub shoulders with other growers who may also be experimenting and learning as they go, we can benefit from a bit of infrastructure that lessens the monitoring ( I wasn’t the only one in that garden that planted and left for a while – only to come back and be delighted). And most of all – it is community – in a garden. Surely this is something that adds value to anyone’s life.
I have already put a plug in for those same beds for next year – and for any of the other beds that do not get taken. Community Gardens are a tremendous asset to any community. I would also like to think of them as being a place where we can dispel the myth that growing for seed needs to be big and complicated. I am looking forward to more time in this space – inspiring others to plant for seeds, and food.