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Our Community Garden Adventure: How to Garden When You Don’t Have Room For a Garden

Posted Apr 22 2014 1:57am


 Look at me doing my best farmer impression! It only occurred to me after we snapped the pic that the piece of hay in my mouth was laying on top of manure three seconds earlier. But hey, maybe I’ll start a new prebiotic trend: eating poo! 

There are a lot of differences between Minnesota and Colorado – the accent (do you say “bag” or “bayg”?), the weather (I have never lived in a place with more Mother Nature temper tantrums than MN!), the elevation (I think I can finally breathe here?) – but a big one is land. In Minnesota land is cheap and plentiful (even if you have to wrench it from the tiny claws of a million mosquitos). But in Colorado, while land is plentiful it’s definitely not cheap! I’ve heard a lot of explanations for this, usually having to do with the fact that it’s a desert and water rights lead to smaller plot sizes, but what it meant in reality is that we moved from a sprawling half acre in Minnesota to a yard in Colorado so small I could mow our lawn with scissors. My husband wanted to plant a shrub in our backyard and I was like “Noooo! Then we won’t have a backyard anymore!”

This has been more upsetting for my husband than me. I don’t love yard work and am glad to be rid of all that maintenance (although we do desperately miss our tire swing!) but my husband loves planting and dirt and compost and all that green stuff. He’s a gardener (and a hot one at that!):


There are lots of solutions to the problem of having no or little room to garden. Some people do container gardens on decks or patios. Others do small raised beds with imported soil, allowing them to garden on land that is not arable. And then there are all the amazing vertical gardens (seriously so cool – it’s like art and a garden at the same time!) And we’ve actually done container gardens and raised beds, depending on where we’ve lived. But our compromise here is that since we can’t garden in our own yard (although that hasn’t stopped him from planting pots of tomatoes all along our front porch), we signed up for a community garden plot!


If you’ve never heard of them, a community garden plot is simply a large expanse of dirt divided into smaller patches of dirt that you can rent out for the season. (Some communities even offer them for free.)  So for our weekly family night, we headed out to get our garden on! Tonight we just prepared the land by tilling and fertilizing it (and covering it with hay because… I don’t know why) but the kiddos helped us plan out what we are going to plant. Broccoli, snap peas, cherry tomatoes, spinach, lettuce and carrots all made the cut! My beets, sadly, were vetoed.


You do all the work and you get to keep anything you actually coax out of the ground! 

Look at me being all industrious. Actually my main job was shoveling manure. Not only was it a great workout but it was pretty cathartic. I thought I was too tired to even go anywhere but I was amazed at how calming being out in the fresh air, alone with my thoughts and doing some physical labor was. It was like a moving meditation and I felt so much better afterwards – which I really needed, especially given the current commotion in my life.


This is how my boys “helped” us garden. Ah well, they are sure sleeping well now!

The co-op provides some communal supplies like fertilizer, water, shovels, wheelbarrows and even stuff like rototillers and a propane grill in case we decide to barbecue between weeding and realizing the weeds we just pulled were actually strawberry plants. Oh and they have lots of fun pathways to run around on and play tag!


See? A handy wheelbarrow… and what appears to be an old mattress frame decorated with crocheted doilies. Because everyone needs more crochet in their life! I’m serious, we do. Let’s start knitting hats for statues!


They even had a pint-sized ‘barrow perfect for Jelly Bean! She never put anything in it but she sure liked pushing it around!


Our community garden has this cute little building which I’m told becomes a CSA (community supported agriculture) drop in the summertime as well as a place for all us gardeners to distract each other with cherry tomatoes while someone else shoves zucchini in the backseats of the cars.


Also provided: Free hayrides! 


And a free lesson: Hay is itchy!!


 One of our neighbors is growing tulips. 

Another cool perk is getting to see what all the other people are doing with their dirt plots. Not only do you get good ideas for how to make your garden better but you get to meet really nice people! I swear gardeners have to be the kindest, most helpful group of strangers I’ve ever met! 


I’ve been told naturally growing purple tulips (as opposed to dyed) are rare so it was really cool to see one in the flesh, er, cellulose! 

Photo bomb! Actually what he said was, “This place makes me want to dance.” Me too, son!


The farm is surrounded by lots of nice walking/biking trails making it easy to get there in a non-car way!


This composting bin cracked me up. “No dairy product include egg shells” – here lurks the abominable Chickcow! Bow chicka-cow-cow! But it was also really educational. I always thought yard trimmings and food made awesome compost! Apparently not? But toilet paper rolls are? I’m really interested in learning about making compost – I guess it’s not as easy as just letting stuff rot!

There was one casualty of the evening though:
IMAG0327 Jelly Bean got a sliver in her finger but you’ll all be relieved to know she was very brave as I removed it and even got a Dora band-aid for her trouble! (In the first pic she just held up her injured finger to the camera. I was like “Can you hold up two fingers instead?” Of course she wanted to know why. Someday she’ll thank me for not putting a snap of her as a preschooler flipping the bird, right?)

Do any of you garden? What type do you do? Anyone have any advice for us on our first community garden adventure? what’s your moving meditation?


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