16. Paying the Garden Forward

Pulling out all the beets!

I love working in the garden for a myriad of reasons: caloric, therapeutic, aromatic, ecological, etc. That list of reasons includes what I've come to think of as garden gifts. They're small gifts, like basil plants potted up for mom. Or huge gifts, like two loads of free bricks and soil to start a tomato bed that I received when I moved into this cool duplex in a hip Denver neighborhood. I haven't been a grower of plants all my life; it's a passion I developed in my early twenties. But one thing I've noticed, and subsequently treasured, since joining this community is that these people love to help one another in so many ways. Whether its sharing seeds or sprouting secrets or compost, gardeners appreciate the opportunity to pay it forward.

When we moved into this home in October of 2015, the backyard was a towering hot mess of thistle, massive dandelions, and various other weeds and vines. The neighbor sharing the backyard had a small dog who used a tiny dugout in the brush as a restroom about thrice daily, and otherwise the yard was mine to gardenize as I saw fit after clear-cutting the untamed mess. I chose to accept the mission and before long I'd used the generosity of a few craigslist posts, a friendly co-worker, and my girlfriend's all-star gardening mum to build two garden beds. My dad and I built a small shed by the end of the first weekend. I transplanted my blueberry bushes and some foxgloves into new homes in the soil before winter settled in.

One honey bee doing his best to make sure the next tenant gets some blueberries

A few weeks after we moved to Baker, I was unloading some stuff out of my Jeep when a woman meandered by slowly in her car with the windows down, looking at our house. She waved to get my attention, and asked if I lived at 420. I said no, we have the unit next door; but we share the back yard. She said that she had used to live in our building six or so years ago, and asked if her garden beds were still in use. When I told her I was afraid not, she was clearly dispirited. I tried to make up for it by letting her know that I was doing my best to bring the garden back to life, but it was obviously little consolation. I had totally ruined her day.

Nobody likes to see something they work hard on destroyed or neglected; that's a terrible feeling. But I contend that the opposite is also true: I hope that the next gardener takes what I've done here and takes it to the next level. I never harvested but a handful of blueberries from those blasted bushes because of consistent late freezes, but I hope the new tenants take in buckets of them! That thought brings me a special kind of joy. I'm leaving behind boxes and beds of kale and arugula ready to eat the day they move in; everybody likes salad, right?

We're having a party we're calling the Going Away Give-Away in a couple weeks; it's part of an effort to downsize and minimalize as we get ready for this trip to Canada and whatever comes next. But the things I'm most excited about giving to friends and family aren't plastic electronics or old picture frames or small appliances. I look most forward to giving the tomato starts and big pots of strawberry plants that will, with a little guidance and water, produce delicious and nutritious food for the people that care for them, and that I care about. And I really hope it may induce one or two of those people to catch the gardening bug in the same way I have.

new salad soldiers in formation