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Late October, and the Garden Is Still Going Strong

Our work garden rocks. There’s really no better way to put it.

Everyone who has participated in the inaugural year of our community work garden says they’ve never seen a garden produce so much. My theory is that it’s the perfect mix of compost, sun and love/adoration. I mean, we shower that thing with praises pretty much every day — more often than we need to shower it with water. A large tomato, watching the garlic we planted a couple weeks ago begin to come up, or seeing a butterfly depart from a flower sends us all into a happy mixture of giggles, chatters, oohs and aahs.

 October garden harvest 

It’s almost November, and we’re still harvesting basketloads of veggies every week: tomatoes, all kinds of peppers, watermelons, eggplants, herbs, green onions and more. Plus, our lettuce and spinach patches are going gangbusters. In fact, there’s so much lettuce, we decided to have a “Salad Day” at work today. Others brought in fixin’s, and we all shared in the bounty.

Rumor has it that the first hard frost is coming to our neck of the woods in eastern Kansas on Thursday or Friday of next week. We’re planning a Fried Green Tomato Party and another Salad Day to make sure we eat every last thing we possibly can.

Salad Day 

As the season comes to an end, I have to admit, I’m feeling a little sad and sentimental about it. This garden has meant a lot to me and all the people who have tended it. And we’ve created some pretty fun memories:

There was the failed attempt at removing sod with shovels alone. (I’m all for hard labor by hand, but I was overjoyed when the sod cutter came to our rescue.)

There were the baby bunnies that we found in the garden a few months back. Their mom made a home for them beneath the giant sunflowers in the straw mulch. Some people around the office mentioned that they’d eat our stuff, so we better find a way to get them out of there. A few of us insisted there was enough to go around.

And, of course, there was the Little Cucumber That Could — our cucumber plant (only one of four that survived after some hard spring rains) that kept going and going and going, despite our comments that surely it would stop producing any day now.

It was the veggies from this garden that I used when I learned how to can this year. Not a lot of things make me happier than looking at the jars of pickles and salsa in my pantry at home.

Thanks to the garden, a great friend from work cooked with a fresh, homegrown green pepper for the first time ever, and was thrilled at the flavor (she took five peppers home with her the following weekend).

Another friend from work, and a great contributor to the garden, was in a serious car accident a couple years ago and hasn’t been able to garden at home. She expressed to me multiple times that this garden has meant the world to her.

So, thank you, garden. It’s been a great year. I come to realize more and more that, at a simple level, a garden embodies a lot of what we need in this world: all different kinds of people joining together with common goals, a mix of fun and hard work, good food, and a focus on taking care of ourselves, each other, other living things and this Earth.

Shelley Stonebrook is MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine’s main gardening editor. She’s passionate about growing healthy, sustainable food and taking care of our environment. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and .

Photos by Nate Skow 

10/28/2010 9:49:12 AM

This was such a fun project, and the fried green tomatoes were completely inspiring. The "fried in butter" part made my culinary roots happy, and the flavor was simply splendid. The other day when my car went to the dealership for servicing, I hitched a ride back to the office on their shuttle. The driver pulled up at our office building and said, "Oh, you're the guys with that big garden. That's so neat. I've been keeping track over the summer. ..." So our reputation is growing, so to speak. >:=] --KC over at The Herb Companion

karen rooman
10/25/2010 3:55:15 PM

Shelley, Your blog captures how magical our garden has been this year. The community garden has served many purposes besides eating the harvest. It was a place to go to clear your head and center yourself from work. I think the garden did so well is because the plants responded to all the care and positive input from all that participated. Thank you Heidi and Shelley for your inspiration and hard work.

ilene reid
10/25/2010 1:21:51 PM

Shelley, I enjoyed your blog and I too had so much FUN working and playing in the garden. I did learn so many things from participating in the garden group. Oh, and I was amazed at the cucumbers that plant produced. My favorite of course!!! Thanks to you and Heidi for being our fearless leaders and I look forward to next season!!!! Fried green tomatoes----count me in!!!