I'm sure there are quite a few sore backs and hands in our neighborhood tonight, but we did manage to get the 200 Foot Garden planted today.
The weather was perfect--sunny and 70s. I was out there a little before 8am, trying to get a head start on hacking out (with the hoe) the grass and weeds that covered the strip of ground we needed to plant. It wasn't long before everyone else started to arrive, and we set up a system. I continued doing the large-scale hacking and whacking (and so did Cathy Neal), and the rest of the folks worked on doing two passes to remove the weeds and shake all the dirt from the roots and bag everything up.
It took us about 2 1/2 hours, but we finally got everything pulled out and the soil cultivated such that we could plant. Cathy Neal of Bountiful Brookline brought 8 bags of compost donated from Allandale Farm, along with two bags of lime to help amend the soil. The soil needs a lot of organic matter (we hardly saw any earthworms), so next year we'll want to add even more compost.
By 10:30, the sun was hot and we were glad for the ice water that we brought and the mint ice tea that Lura Lee, our backyard neighbor, shared with everyone.
At 7 this morning, I was busily typing up the planting map that Tracy and I worked out last night (while waiting for Harry Potter to start). The map/plant list helped us make sure that we got all the plants evenly spaced across the garden, and so that we end up (we hope) with a more interesting visual pattern. To make it a little more manageable, we broke the garden into a pattern based on 20-foot sections. (Oh, one surprise--the garden is actually 180 feet long, not 200, but don't tell anyone. A little hyperbole isn't a bad thing in gardening.)
Tracy and I used the map to lay out all the potted plants, and then everyone else went straight to work getting plants in the ground. It helped to have so many experienced gardeners there, who could help out with advice if folks needed it. Once the plants were set, we went back and filled in with remaining seeds (this took a while). While Sarah and I planted seeds, everyone else watered (very hard work) and cleaned up.
Lots of people stopped by to ask what we were doing, including many residents of the nearby apartment complex, who were delighted with the idea of the project. The steady stream of appreciation for our work made it all seem even more worthwhile. The signs that Kate Rhodes made will keep people up-to-date even when we're not around.
Everyone who worked today was extremely generous with their time, energy, and tools. The one photo I wish I had (but missed) was when Tracy arrived with all the kids in a parade of wagons and tricycles, carrying all the seedlings--thanks to Noah, Bobby, Caroline, Quilon, and Benjamin for being our young helpers today. Our more mature workers today included Tracy, Kira, Sarah, Louise, Cathy, Roberta, Lura Lee, Jose Pablo, Maeve, Yvonne, Dorothy, and Leslee. Having a dozen adults there working made it possible for us to get this whole garden in the ground in about 4 1/2 hours.
The Brookline TAB (our local paper) also showed up--Neal conducted a few interviews, and Dave was there taking photos. With any luck, some info will appear in Thursday's paper.
The day felt like a tremendous success all around. The plants got in the ground, we got to know our neighbors better, and there was plenty of exercise in the sunshine.
We have a few challenges ahead--mostly around finding ways to keep these plants watered and thriving. We also need to find ways to organize more work and watering days, perhaps setting up some sort of schedule.
Right now, we need to let our muscles recover and try to be patient while these young plants try to take root.
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