by Mark Pennington
“Look at that! It’s huge! I can't believe it!”
The Kitchen Garden was swirling with energy and excitement and color this Saturday. Just a short while ago, it seems, this riverview plot on the brink of the hill behind the church was a tangled mass of partially removed sod, yielding reluctantly to spades and rakes. Over the course of a few weeks, a hearty group of gardeners from Roots and Wings and Cabrini Immigrant Services cleared grass, turned soil, and planted – a garden! Small clusters of us have come out on Saturday mornings to pull out rampant weeds from the season’s abundant rains. People come when they can, for as long as they can. In moments, it has felt daunting. Then, tender new shoots emerged, barely bigger than the weeds.
Suddenly, the pace has picked up dramatically. Kathy Dean and Robin Larkins dialed up the energy. E-mails went out to coordinate pairings of Roots and Wings and Cabrini families. Nature did its work. And a crowd appeared. Parents and kids. Gardeners from Brazil, Peru. Mexico, Korea, Pakistan, Hastings and Dobbs. Onlookers in colorful saris pointing and exclaiming. Animated conversations in several languages.
“Look! There’s another one! Look how it’s all twisted!”
“Take them! They’re ready!” Robin urged. “That’s what we’re here for!”
Soon, a basket was brimming with cucumbers and zucchini. People were talking about the meals they would prepare with them. Looking forward to a bigger communal feast as the season progresses. Inquiring about news from Korea. Holding the weeds in check. Readying a new spot for carrots and cilantro. Thinking about how much better we can do next season, with a little more lead time. Better use of space. More clearly defined beds and rows.
The tomato plants are looking majestic. The peppers are surging. The swiss chard is resplendent. The potatoes are hiding. The delicate asparagus is giving thanks for the stakes that protect its slow growth from the trampling feet of well meaning gardeners.
“Don’t pull up the whole thing! Twist it, that’s right!”
“Not all of them! We have to leave some to grow!”
“This is wonderful!”
Later, one of the kids proudly displayed his trophy zucchini to Susan de George at the Attic Sale refreshment stand, probably unaware that she was one of the masterminds of the garden. And people are believing it, looking forward to more time together in the garden.