Green thieves


Rating: NNNNN

You might think I’m crazy to even try . Some days I’d be inclined to agree – like today, for instance. It has happened again. Someone got into my Riverdale community garden plot even earlier than I did, dug out whole chunks from my row of lettuces and absconded with them. Now there are plants scattered loosely on the earth at the end of my neat rows. They haven’t wilted yet, so chances are I could have said “Good morning!” to the cad who made the mess as I walked here. If this were the first or second time it had happened, I’d probably just roll with it, shrug it off.

Early in the season, someone came in and dug up almost all the healthy basil plants that were planted in many members’ plots. They were dug out carefully, as if to be transplanted. They were taken by someone who wanted a lot of basil but wouldn’t scrape together the two bucks apiece it costs to buy healthy little plants from a nursery. The same has happened with an aloe plant that was intended to be available for the cuts, scrapes or stings that can occur during garden work.

Then there was the raspberry patch that a few of us worked so hard to resurrect last fall. It began bearing fruit. I did a lot of research at the library last summer in order to pull this together, and we had just begun tasting the fruits of our labour. But someone took out the hedge trimmers, razed the top couple of feet off the whole patch and left all the trimmings – including shoots with ripening berries – to wilt in a big pile by the gate. The pear tree, which bore only three fruits last year but is growing two dozen this year, suffered a similarly brutal and anonymous beheading.

None of this has stopped me. And while my partner observes pessimistically that this is what a community garden is about, I’ve seen another side, too. There are just enough wonderments of virtue and social connections to offset the jaded acts and entice me back. Two women with a gorgeous garden in the neighbourhood just gave us a generous bag of iris roots. They’re intrigued with our plan to rim the entire garden in self-seeding flowers, and have promised black-eyed susans and echinacea for next year.

The gardens are maintained by a potpourri of staff and volunteers, and they’ve had their troubles, too. A few years ago, just as the tomatoes were plump and ripening, they would disappear in the dark, so the staff began harvesting them early to make green-tomato relish. Now they just plant lots of cherry tomatoes, knowing that pilfering is, unfortunately, part of the process, and that tomorrow there’ll be more ripe fruit.

In the same spirit, we planted one community plot with offerings from many members’ gardens, which we hope will invite non-gardening visitors to harvest an item or two from there and leave the rest of our plots rightfully alone. A portion of what we grow is destined for FoodShare’s Plant A Row – Grow A Row program, which donates the harvest to local charities and shelters.

I feel like a kid again, digging, watering, playing in the mud, coming home with a bag of treasures, feeling bone-tired, with dirt streaked on my face and ears, wiped on my shorts, caked on my calves. Maybe I am crazy, rising above the defeats. Maybe I’ve been getting a little too much sun.



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