Summer in the Garden
Believe it or not, these tomatoes came directly from my backyard garden and neighborhood p-patch. Yes, I have come a long way from the days when my college roomates poked fun at me for not knowing what “mulch” was. Growing up in New York City, Central Park was the great wilderness and all food grew at Zabars or Fairway.
Things have changes since I moved to Seattle and began experimenting in the garden. I had to start with the very basics. At my first Seattle Tilth spring sale, Rachel had to explain to me that the onions actually grew in bulbs underneath the grass like shoot I saw in the container marked “onion.” I took a basic gardening class, learned about compost, fertilizer, bugs, and tilling the soil. Despite all of my hard work, however, season one ended pretty dismally. I learned the hard way that containers need a lot of water and all the flowery prose about how the various kinds of vegetables will grow do not necessarily guarantee any bounty. After all the work (not to mention expensive farming supplies), I ended up with produce that looked NOTHING like the food at our farmer’s market.
During the “off” season, I decided to build some trellises in our backyard to grow tomatoes, pole beans, and even some fruit trees. These have turned out well. But, the biggest leap forward in my efforts to live out the “farm-to-table” lifestyle was the amazing creation of Gillman gardens.
A neighbor named Charlie decided to convert an overgrown median down the street from us into an urban garden. At our first meeting, I walked along the hilly and weedy area and was quite surprised by Charlie’s vision of dozens of plots full of food and flowers. Somehow, he was able to get the city to approve (and even support) his plan and before I knew it, I had a plot assigned. Of course, the plot was on a steep hill and needed retaining walls. The only model I had in mind for this was the ancient step agricultural system I remembered reading about at the Sataf springs outside of Jerusalem. But, I followed the lead of my co-gardnerens and headed to the lumber store with some rough measurements. After a crash course in woodworking (Horace Mann never had a shop class!) I built retaining walls for my plan and started planting.
Here are some images from the first seasons’s bounty: