Monday, April 21, 2008

The Garden Tool

The new chief gardener for the community garden Aunt Bob and I share is annoying the crap out of me. I'm hoping that as the season progresses, I will come to admire her enthusiasm, rather than just rolling my eyes and muttering "cripes" every time every time I get another of her ten-page emails.

Aunt Bob and I have been in our plot for five years - cursing the tomatoes that never seem to grow, surprised by the herbs that over-winter some years but not others, and enjoying the bounty of the inherited raspberry bush (if the birds don't beat us to it).

We've seen chief gardeners come and go. Lois was the first, an odd older woman who didn't believe in planting in rows. She was forever giving us seeds in unlabeled window envelopes - you know, the kind that come with your bills - to "try." We never knew what the hell we were planting, but it was always fun. We would secretly designate entire patches of the garden as "Lois," and just see what came up. She had the plot next to ours, and I saw her often that first year. If she wasn't tending her own crazy chaos of a plot, she was trimming weeds around the garden perimeter, or clearing paths, or making sure the fences were in good shape.

I saw Lois much less often the second year. I heard her father was ill, and her own health was declining, so I wasn't shocked when there was a new chief gardener the next year.

I never saw our second chief gardener. She called once to remind us we were expected to use our whole plot, which ticked me right the hell off because she was referring to a patch of the back garden where three consecutive crops had failed. She also complained about state of our plot, but I found out later the weeds she was grousing about were actually a patch of cilantro. Quite the horticulturist, that one. The second year, she sublet her plot to a nice German couple.

The current chief gardener started off on the wrong foot. She reconfigured the plots, first promising us a larger plot, but in return we would lose a couple of feet of our current space. I agreed, and then she told me she had already moved our thriving thyme plant for us. It was outside of the boundaries of our new plot. Um, thanks?

Later she emailed to tell us that instead of a larger plot, we would actually be getting a smaller plot. That couple of feet we lost on one side were now in exchange for: surprise! Nothing. Um, thanks?

She has instituted new rules, claiming that a minimum of five hours of work per week is required per plot, and each gardener is expected to pitch in for "community chores" - path clearing and the like - the things Lois used to do. She sends emails about "work parties" and forbidden plants and cover crops and the proper way to dispose of rocks. I hope that I will appreciate all this later in the season, when my plot is not overrun by weeds that have gone to seed in neighboring plots.

Aunt Bob has been dutifully slaving away; weeding and tilling and planting spring lettuce; terrified of the "warning flags" the chief gardener has threatened for untended plots.

I braved the pollen and finally got to the garden this weekend. There was some litter near the back of our plot, a discarded label that bore only the words "Garden Tool."

"What a perfect new name for our new chief gardener," I thought.

Oh, and the thyme plant she moved? Now pretty much dead. Thanks.


Tami W. said...

It would sure be a shame if someone moved some of her plants for her, huh?
Just sayin...

Aunt Bob said...

Oh, it's better than that -- the cutting she took from the thyme is thriving in her plot.


Em said...

I can't believe she had the nerve to move your plant without asking and take a cutting to boot!

I miss Lois already.

Mamma said...

Now I'm so grateful for my little plot at the end of my driveway. The only "Tool" who gives me advice is the hubs, but I can just roll my eyes and ignore him.

De in D.C. said...

oy, give me suburb traffic and my own back yard any day. Did this reconfiguring (ie, shrinking) of plots lend space for new tenants?

So are you allowed to grow cover crops in the off season? How about heavily mulching to suppress weeds? I throw like 4 inches of shredded leave on my beds in the fall and just move some aside when I go to plant in the spring. Through the summer I keep several inches of grass clippings down, then repeat with the leaves in the fall. Best damn soil I've ever had, and less than an hour of weeding needed in the spring. Take that Madam Garden Tool!

Michele said...

We did the community plot thing one year and I swear people were stealing our tomatoes and peppers. I would see them just a day or two away from being ready to pick, and then they would disappear.

I showed them, I let the damn thing go to weed and seed. And then we got kicked out. So I guess it kind of backfired.

"Garden Tool". Heh.