Late October, and the Garden Is Still Going Strong

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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