14 November 2012

How to Have Your Heart Broken Every Year

....Grow an Urban Garden…

Just Try.  Get permission from some owner of a vacant lot.  This can be the Civic Garden Center, the City, or private developer.  Whoever, but meet with them and explain what you are doing and coordinate who is taking care of the lot and who should stay out.  Spend long hours bringing in good soil, removing glass, building beds, finding a water source, picking up litter, removing dog shit.  Meet with other people interested in gardening, invite them to assist, even if they are slightly insane. 

Work beside old people who just grow okra like they did growing up in the south.  Scold kids who jump the fence or run through the beds.

Then spend more time arguing with dog owners who refuse to curb their dog out of the garden and then listen to people complain about how your vegetable garden isn’t pretty, and then meet others who want to buy the lot to park cars on it.

Then do the things every gardener does: planting, weeding and watering.  Spend money and time nurturing a good mix of annuals and perennials.  If you are an optimist grow things like tomatoes and squashes.  If you are a pessimist and think those will get stolen too quickly, grow root vegetables and herbs.  If your really an optimist, plant fruit trees and grape vines.  Get the kids to help.  Show them that figs can actually grow in Ohio.  Have them save the worms you accidentally cut with the shovel.  Show them monarch caterpillars and cocoons.  Have them hide a growing pumpkin under leaves so people won’t see it. Get a good sage plant going, then get a big bush rosemary plant going in a sunny spot and give it lots of water so it grows big and healthy.

Spend 6 months doing all this and watching all your hard work come to fruition, and then…

…then come by some Saturday afternoon in October and find that someone has cut it all down. That beautiful rosemary bush that could have grown for years and years, cut to the ground. Everything butchered and piled in the corner compost bin. It can bring you to tears to see it.  It is so heartbreaking and so tragic.  This year it has put my wife in a depression.

Usually it is some volunteer group trying to clean up the neighborhood (fuck those do-gooders). (Don't they fucking know what rosemary looks like?) But other times it has been done by paid contractors hired by the City who got mixed up on what lots to clear.  It is so frustrating.  People have absolutely no respect for what you are doing. None.

It has happened in fenced lots and open lots.  It has happened on lots owned by the City and lots owned by neighbors and lots owned by the Civic Garden Center.  It has happened to us most every year for maybe 15 years.  It is so frustrating, I quit years ago.  

But my wife trudges on.  She needs to garden.

So each year, each spring she starts our and tries again.  Or at least she always has so far. 

Now, I am racking my brain trying to think of a solution, a better way.  The only thing I can come up with is purchasing some land and fencing it and locking it.  But where would this lot be?  If it is to far to walk, then we will go there less.  If it is isolated, it may suffer even more vandalism.  We really don’t need a huge space, but most urban lots are ignored by the owners and they have no incentive to sell or do anything.  Heck an agency will even come by and cut the weeds and plant bushes on it for you  

Tentatively, I’m lookout for a south-facing OTR lot for sale, never to be built upon. Cheap.


Rob said...

Where was her garden, out of curiosity?

Quimbob said...

Are rooftop beds an option?

Anonymous said...

What about putting up a little sign--"Community Garden of ______"?

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately they took almost everything but the benches that allow the homeless to live in that green space and use your urban garden as their private restroom.

Unknown said...

I have an under-utilized, fenced in garden on Race between 15th and 14th. Would you like a key? We designed it for kids, but there are fewer and fewer kids in the neighborhood, so we are redesigning it. It really needs some adult energy in it besides my own. Here's my email if you'd like: madelinemdorger@gmail.com. I'd love to talk more about gardening in the city. It's such a joy and such a trial. Some folks working on Race street tossed a bunch of scrap metal and wood on my parsnips I had been growing all summer. Things that people can't identify automatically become a weed. :( I think parsnips are beautiful - rosemary, too.

Anonymous said...

The common person is an idiot. And there are frightfully more and more of them. Rosemary, what's that your Grandma?

The exact words at the end can apply to historic buildings from downtown to Avondale (especially Avondale) All I can say is the "city" is ruining this city. Their stance is anti-saving from the beginning. I gave up long ago on the buildings here. You can fix up OTR and elsewhere all you want but the good stuff is already gone along with the intelligence that built it.

I think women have a tougher determination. My guess is your garden will return. I've never had a city sub cut down my garden - if it did I'd be livid! I have heard of that happening first hand. I've experienced the dog walkers, rampant lawnmowers, those who pull out Cleome because they think it is pot, those who dig out the entire Dahlia plants, potted-plant thieves, flower pickers which are really pullers because they don't know how to pick a flower and instead pull the whole plant out and so on. I still have a garden but it looks nothing like it used to - you can thank the city for that (mainly for how they deal with the built environment) - this city has depressed me.

It's not about the money spent, however, you may be able to get reimbursed for plant material that was lost in this massacre. Don't let them get away with it.

Anonymous said...

Madeline Dorger from Gorman Farm and the Civic Garden Center? Mike, your wife has just made friends with a fabulously lovely person!

Blue Ash Mom