Thursday, November 12, 2009

Guest Garden - Urban Style

It's a lovely, crisp fall day in downtown D.C. and nestled among government office buildings and national museums we found the perfect urban garden!

In one of the many triangles formed when "state" streets cross the numbered and lettered streets is a marvelous urban garden plot. The land is owned by the National Park Service and will someday be the home of a monument to Dwight David Eisenhower - president, general, and cold war leader - but for now it is the home of about twenty garden plots.

The lone gardener that morning was a lady who has held onto her plot for years, she told us, and who admitted that although she and a friend have the rights to two plots, she has squatted on half a dozen others as their "owners" have deserted them. Apparently it is difficult to locate the coordinator, so the plots don't turn over very efficiently. When an owner loses interest or gets too busy to keep up with the work, she takes a little piece here and a little piece there to plant a little something more.

On the morning we met she was pulling up veggies that had suffered from the frost last week, and clearing out the last of the summer weeds. She had already cleared most of her two "legal" plots where she grows mostly vegetables and a few summer annuals. In an adjacent space she has some peonies that are buried too deep and need some attention. In another plot she has some Brussels sprouts and in a fourth, winter greens. She showed us several of her neighbors' plots where we found everything from tomatoes to exotic greens and from roses to masses of overgrown.... whatever! Unfortunately, most of the whole plot was in the sort of disarray that happens in the fall when the gardener loses interest, or it gets too cold to get outside.

In some ways this is the Cadillac of garden plots. Much of it is fenced and there is water available. [The killer for so many urban gardens is the need to carry in water. Most people just can't bring in enough water often enough to keep gardens going in the heat of a city.] There are also a couple of lean-to sheds for storing small equipment.

We promised not to tell the exact location of this garden, since the gardener hopes to gather up some more space and doesn't want the competition! She also doesn't want the park service to get the money for the Eisenhower monument any time soon! It was a lovely place to spend a few minutes and to make a new acquaintance!

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