For many of us, gardening is the ultimate solitary activity, a personal meditation where we turn off our electronics, reconnect with the natural world, and slow down and breathe. While we may delight in showing off the fruits of our labor to family and friends, gardening is a pastime we savor alone.
But there are exceptions. This year, Blog Action Day is celebrating “The Power of We,” and today over 1000 bloggers from 42 different countries will be interpreting this topic however they choose. For me, there is no more inspiring example of what a dedicated group of determined individuals can create together than my own local community garden.
“Our Garden” was created as a partnership between the Contra Costa County Master Gardeners in northern California and the Contra Costa Times three years ago. What began as a fun, new venue to educate the community on edible gardening has grown into a wildly successful project that delivers hundreds of pounds of fresh produce to local food banks annually, (as part of the Garden Writers Association “Plant a Row for the Hungry”) and educates the public on a wide variety of gardening topics, from sheet mulching to proper irrigation techniques.
Waiting for a class on lawn alternatives to begn
Master Gardener Janet Miller is one of the master minds behind the garden, and shares not only her astonishing expertise on everything from double digging to cover crops, but also donates space in her own greenhouse for plant propagation. (Thanks to Janet, Liz Rottger and the whole tireless team, the first annual tomato sale raised thousands of dollars and sold out in less than a day!) Other community members have pitched in as well, including CK Landscape, who donated irrigation supplies and expertise.
While volunteers can be found in the garden on any given day throughout the spring and summer, Wednesdays are when the public is invited to stop by and hear a lecture, help out in the garden, purchase plants or have their own gardening questions answered by the onsite help desk staffed by master gardeners.
What has set “Our Garden” apart from similar endeavors is the support and commitment of the Contra Costa Times. Longtime garden editor and columnist Joan Morris was an enthusiastic partner from the beginning. In addition to arranging space on the CC Times property to plant the garden, her weekly column in the newspaper’s home and garden section not only introduced the garden to the community at large, but created a way for armchair gardeners to share in the project’s success. By reading Joan’s recap of each Wednesday’s lecture, even those unable to attend could learn more about environmentally sound gardening practices.
Joan Morris, ensuring no one leaves empty-handed, even if that only means a flyer.
In real estate, location is everything, and the same holds true when it comes to an edible garden. The first year was especially challenging, when it was discovered that the site of the garden was on top of an extended community of ground squirrels. I was one of many who read the weekly updates in Joan’s column chronicling the War Between the MGs and the Squirrels (FYI, the caps are my addition, as the weekly battle updates were quite exciting). After months of failed strategies, the combination of an extra secure fence and anti-critter electric wire resulted in—if not exactly victory, at least an uneasy truce, and proved that gardening is a life long learning experience, even for the pros.
Volunteers prepping the new site
Next year the garden will be relocating to a new spot in Walnut Creek, which will allow for more extensive demonstration and work areas, including an onsite greenhouse and small fruit orchard. I encourage local friends and readers to find time to visit on a Wednesday morning next spring or summer, and see first hand the amazing “Power of We” at work in our own community.