For Gardeners, Only: Tomatoes on the Brain

A gardener’s first-hand account of gardening at Festival Beach Community Garden. By Jolyn Janis, plot B19.

Our dive into the wonderful world of gardening began with tomatoes. Our family wanted fresh, local tomatoes in our kitchen all the time, but at $4.50 per pound and up, it wasn’t something we were ready to extend our budget on. This was before we got into the wonderful world of home gardening.

We started our first garden in 2009 when we moved from an apartment to a house and had a nice, sunny backyard. We consulted with the Natural Gardener about how to begin a garden, which seemed like a daunting task at first because no one in the family had ever had a garden — a successful one, that is. We built one with cinderblocks that was about 4’x4′ and we grew some vegetables and herbs. We had a hearty harvest, though some plants didn’t last very long and we ran into some unidentifiable plant predators. We knew we needed pro help when our collards looked like swiss cheese from an unknown insect. This gave us a taste of growing our own food and we were addicted to gardening. We found Festival Beach  shortly after and signed up for a plot, which was much bigger than what we were able to have at home. Just in time for summer, we got the call that there was a plot available and we chose our lovely plot, B19.

What I love most about community gardening at Festival Beach are the shared resources, which of course includes shovels, mulch and compost, but most importantly, knowledge, experience and advice that we’ve  receive from neighbor gardeners and resident experts. It’s truly invaluable. When we gardened at home and a bug would eat a particular plant, we would have no idea what it was or how to get rid of it organically. Now, through conversation and consultance at the community gardens, I know some amazingly simple organic solutions to control most insects and weather-related hindrances. We just started our garden at Festival Beach in March and have planted tomatoes, melons, string beans, cucumbers, basil (my personal super fave), eggplant, bell peppers, hot peppers and some mystery seeds which I think is lettuce now that it’s sprouting 🙂

The photos above show our garden’s development from March to present. Inspired by the gardens around the community, we plan to build a box in the unharvested area to contain all of our herbs. We live nearby and are currently building a home farther east, though we plan to keep our plot at Festival Beach because it is such an amazingly beautiful community that grows bigger and better every day. I look forward to our first harvest, the day when we can bring a big bowl, pull lettuce and tomatoes and cucumbers from our own garden, add some dressing and enjoy a truly organic salad with our new friends.