Jeff is a good friend whom I met when we worked together at Capital City Public Charter School. He and his partner Bruce live in a charming Cape Cod which they’re restoring, in Takoma Park, just the other side of the District boundary. He writes about their little urban homestead at The Prolific Sunchoke. He shares his food story, which centers around his flourishing garden.
Most of my mid-mornings these days allow for time to inspect the daily growth of the garden and think about how happy I am at this house because of the amount (although still small at 40′ x 25′ and another track of 5′ x 15′) of full-sun, productive garden space….and, honestly, it truly fuels getting a bunch of other things done the rest of the day. Today, in preparing for contributing to my friend Katie’s enjoyable blog that often highlights her apartment’s balcony garden space, I remembered how I had just enough space at my rented houses in DC to have a nice herb garden – and only after much work on the soil. Fortunately, I had plenty of produce for most of those years since I operated a CSA program that grew into a health food store; however, I remember still having the urge to get into the soil every Spring beyond my tiny space and to be part of a community doing the same.
Three years in a row I signed up to get a Glover Park community garden plot to only be offered a space in late June. Lesson learned – put in more than one application. Since then, I’ve learned about a lot more urban gardening initiatives and wanted to share some great comprehensive lists of community gardens in the area. Thanks to the Field to Fork Network for their excellent map of community gardens in D.C. And if you’re looking for a community garden in Maryland or Virginia, Kathy Jentz of the Washington Gardener Magazine has compiled an excellent list of them all. If you end up not getting a space until later in the Summer, take it! – generally, you will have to keep your space active and free of weeds to not face eviction, but plant something to keep the space going and get a feel for what you want to plant throughout next season.
My own garden/yard has none of the straight rows extending for acres like the ones I marveled at as a child, watching our Amish neighbors toil over in Myerstown, Pennsylvania. I remember turning to my mom one day after gazing at our neighbor Isaac (pictured in this photo) and announcing at 5 years old that I would be a farmer when I grew up.
It’s my dream to one day have at least several acres to dedicate to growing crops, be it a residential charter school farm, bed and breakfast or an urban community garden; in the meantime, our approach at home in Takoma Park, MD is to maximize every space that we can – while not (too obviously) inching into Bruce’s grass spaces! These photos below demonstrate how our cabbage is already thriving right next to the coreopsis and yarrow with the dill rising high above everything. The squash and watermelon are claiming more than their own fair share of the space, pushing right past the lavendar and along the paths. We utilize trellices, our fences, stairrail, etc. for the zucchinis, tomatoes and beans to grow up towards the soil, leaving their neighbors the turnips, radishes, onions, brussel sprouts and herbs more soil and sun to grow.