I spent two years dreaming of sun-warmed tomatoes, towering sunflowers and home-grown salad greens before a spot opened in my community garden in Washington, D.C.
When I first met plot 56 in September of 2015, it was a mound of grasses, vines and cilantro gone to seed.
I had no experience with a vegetable garden of my own, but I knew I was just the person to tame this 4- by 8-foot raised bed. I grew up watching my dad grow veggies. I worked on a flower farm in high school. And I trained as a plant biologist. So I know something about encouraging a seed to grow.
Here I am in 2015 confidently posed by the weeds I was ready to conquer.
And here's a photograph of the same plot, one year later — sent to me by the president of our community garden, along with a friendly reminder that if I didn't tend to my plot ASAP, it would go to someone else.
Yeah, my first year was a miserable failure, and not just because I let the weeds win.
Community gardens are rapidly gaining popularity. In my city alone, the Department of Parks and Recreation oversees more than 30 community gardens made up of about 1,200 individual plots. But coaxing tiny boxes of land to produce quality vegetables in urban settings requires real skill.
This summer, I righted many of my wrongs from last year and also made some fresh mistakes. In the hopes of improving next year's yield, I reached out to community garden experts for help. Here is their (and my) best advice for getting the most veggie for your effort in a community garden.
Carolyn Beans is a freelance science journalist living in Washington, D.C. She specializes in ecology, evolution, and health.
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