From Neal Sanders, co-chair of the Medfield Community Gardens, from his post on his blog, The Principal Undergardener at
April 12, 2020
Though I was not present at the meeting, apparently sometime toward the end of March, Medfield’s Covid-19 Response Committee discussed which additional community activities (in addition to schools, libraries, restaurants, etc.) could or should be discontinued in order to discourage unnecessary public gatherings.
|A returning gardener
carries in her plot’s
‘mascot’ – a terra cotta
The Community Garden was one of the ‘group activities’ up for consideration.
I would not have known this except a town employee forwarded a copy of an internal email noting the Community Garden had been spared, and permitted to go forward on schedule. A few days later, in one of my periodic ‘updates’ to the 75 families who have plots in the garden, I mentioned the decision in passing.
The response from gardeners was swift and vocal. The most memorable one came from a wonderful lady whom I think of as giving the garden a certain ‘classiness’. She is always in a good mood; she maintains a glorious garden; and she dresses better than any gardener I have ever met. Her response was as follows:
|Betty dispenses gardening advice from
a socially responsible distance
“So help me God, if they were to close the garden I would have a HUGE problem with that. The garden is my ONLY solace from home- schooling these animals, and my escape from the “office”.
The message concluded with a number of emojis, the exact translation of them I could not ascertain, but which appeared to threaten to visit some ancient Egyptian curse upon anyone who dared to mess with the status quo.
Betty and I have spent multiple hours the past few days at the Community Garden. Betty answers questions (from a CDC-acceptable distance) about what it is safe to plant. I introduce myself to the new gardeners (signup is via email) and explain why we recommend burying the bottom six inches of fences.
|It’s too soon to plan anything but the
hardiest of crops, but everyone is
What we have received from gardeners is universal thanks. Back in January and February, I was having trouble getting people to sign up for plots. After the ‘shelter in place’ orders went out, demand exploded. Not only were all plots filled; I had a wait list with eight names on it. Everyone, it seems, is in need of some garden therapy.
A group of volunteers always stakes the garden at the end of March and we ask gardeners to have a fence up by the first weekend in May; a very reasonable four or five weeks to accomplish a task that provides ‘proof of gardening.’ Yet, in a ‘normal’ year, I have to don my Ogre costume to get people to meet the deadline. This year, the first half dozen fences were in place the day after I put out a memo announcing that the garden was open. Today (April 12) I counted just nine plots out of 70 that are not fenced, with the deadline still three weeks away.
|Everyone is working on fences|
Granted, people have far more time on their hands in the spring of 2020 than in previous years, but there is also a palpable sense of pleasure on the faces of everyone I see. Moreover, there is more courtesy. For example, every year, I grit my teeth as I find many of the three-foot walkways between plots have been prepared just half the width; gardeners figured they were responsible for only ‘their’ half of the pathway. This year, whoever does the path puts down cardboard or paper plus bark mulch for the full 36 inches. Another example: we discourage gardeners who share a full plot (dividing each 20-foot-by-30-foot space into two 15-foot-by-20-foot ones) from dividing the plots with an internal fence (it wastes space and promotes weeds). Last year, perhaps four of the 15 gardens bore just a length of string or row of flowers to ‘suggest’ a demarcation. This year, I’ve seen just three plots with interior fences.
|Four plots are prepared|
Most of all, I’ve seen gardeners luxuriating in having a legitimate and ‘responsible’ reason to be outdoors. There were 15 cars at the garden this afternoon. A few had back ends bulging with fencing or stakes, but most people were there just to find something to do in their plots. They were building raised beds, marking out rows, and creating obelisks on which peas will grow this summer. Betty warned everyone soil temperatures are still in the 40’s, meaning it is too early to plant anything except the hardiest of ‘cool weather’ vegetables (spinach, onions). Yet, people were hoeing or on their hands and knees as if a heat wave was expected, rather than the two days of cold rain forecast for early this coming week.
|This is the earliest we’ve been busy.
Usually, early April is very quiet.
Had the garden been ‘disallowed’ because of coronavirus concerns, I could have made all the valid arguments in favor of reversing the decision (chief among them that opportunistic weeds would have swallowed the garden by the end of May), but the likelihood I would have prevailed was slim. As a nation, we are trying to flatten the curve of a pandemic.
But, for 75 Medfield families, we are providing the best kind of therapy. We’re offering hope. I suspect the bins we put out to aid the town’s Food Cupboard will overflow this season. I have a feeling disagreements will be settled amicably and (fingers crossed) vines may even stay inside fences come August.
I predict people will wave greetings to one another from their respective plots until it is once again safe to offer a hug. In short, I think it’s going to be a great season for the Community Garden.