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Community gardening in your own back yard


The little vegetable garden off the road.

An amazing thing has happened since we build the new raised veggie garden: I’m getting to know the neighbors better. The garden is built on the far side of our property, close to the road (because that’s where the sun is). It’s a rural community and a private road, so although we’re a pretty close-knit neighborhood, casual conversations don’t usually happen because we’re just so spread out. The veggie garden has changed that. I can’t think of more than a couple of occasions that I’ve been working in the garden that a neighbor has just driven by without stopping to chat.

When we were building, there were a lot of inquiring minds.
“What ‘cha building there?”
“A garden.”
“That’s mighty tall for a garden.”

Then, before we put the screening on to keep out the deer, there were a lot of comments about how nice a drive-up veggie garden would be … for the neighbors! I heard so many comments about sneaking a tomato here and there that I started to get paranoid about my future fruit (or should I not say that? Is that counting one’s tomatoes before there are even blossoms?)

But now I get people stopping by asking for a tour of my little garden, or noticing what’s been happening in it.

“Got your tomatoes in last weekend, I see.”
“Your onions are looking good!”
“What’s that big trellis for?”

(Following all of these questions, the conversation quickly turns to weather-related topics. What would people in Wisconsin talk about if it weren’t for the weather?)

I even have one neighbor who admitted to me that she’s been talking to my tomato plants on her morning walks, and another who reported seeing a deer with a puzzled look on its face staring longingly at the garden.

I suspect what I’m experiencing is what community garden proponents have been raving about for years: the social part of gardening. I think unless you garden in a tightly packed subdivision or at a community garden, you miss that over-the-fence chit-chat that is such an important part of our society and gardening. And sure, there are days when I haven’t showered yet and I’m still sucking at my first mug of coffee when I’d really rather not see the neighbors, but a little humility is good for all of us. And there’s nothing wrong with a little neighborly chit-chat about the weather.

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