Last year, I relinquished my plot at the Westport community garden due to an over-abundance of weeds and a scarcity of energy. It was one of those seasons when I needed to attend to family, and I couldn't keep up with the enthusiasm of the weeds or the persistence of the emails from those who check for and measure weeds in the community garden.
I had to prioritize, and the garden lost. Instead, I grew herbs on my patio and stayed close to home.
This spring, a friend offered me portion of her garden in the community garden. Having so recently failed at horticultural management, I balked. I'd always considered myself a gardener and not someone who would be run from the community gardens. I planted my first garden in high school and had my own community plot on my college campus. I wasn't ready to admit failure. Sometimes the easiest way to avoid failure is to stop trying.
My friend promised me that her husband had built raised beds and that it would be much more manageable and reminded me that my children were settled into their schools and the crisis which had played havoc with my schedule had been mitigated. Also, she is a persistent friend. She's they type who wants to see others succeed. And, I think she wanted a little company in the garden.
She met me one morning, early in May with several bolts of weed-block fabric, and together we used a staple gun to cover the raised beds. A couple of weeks later, I attended Tomato Mania at the White Flower Farm in Litchfield with the intention of buying a few tomato plants. I hadn't been confident enough to start my own seeds. What started out as a tentative trip to the nursery, bolstered my enthusiasm for gardening again. There were so many varieties! I followed a nurseryman around the tables as he touted the features and habits of each plant. These are nothing like the tasteless red globes we buy at the supermarket, there are a rainbow of colors available. The tomatoes have different growth habits, and I chose a range of growth between 60 days and 90 days before harvest with the idea of having tomatoes all summer. I filled the back of the car and planted them first thing Monday morning.
We had a fair amount of rain this spring. I didn't have to water much. Pulling the weeds out of the raised beds was much easier than the chaotic plot I managed in the past. I added herbs and cucumbers, radishes, lettuce, squash and pumpkins to the plot in a nod to diversity. But it's mostly tomatoes. They've grown as tall as their wire cages now, and have flowered. I anticipate that they will bear fruit. I can't say that I wasn't nervous. Each time I unlocked the combination bolt in the community garden, I expected to find my beds waist-high in weeds. And I sweat when I find an email from the Westport Community Garden in my inbox.
Last weekend, my friend told me that her husband noted that my tomatoes were more vigorous than his. I doubted that to be true, but my competitive nature kicked in a bit and I went to check on them. Mine are planted closer together which, accounts for some of their more verdant appearance. But, indeed, they seemed a little taller and maybe a bit leafier than his. I suspect she nurtured them in my absence. Maybe she sprinkled some fertilizer around their bases or watered them when I wasn't around. In this minor success, my gardening anxiety has dissipated. My tomatoes are thriving, and my fragile ego is saved (for the moment).
Krista Richards Mann is a Westport writer, and her "Well Intended" column appears every other Friday. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.