Members of the four families that make up our Green Thumbs gathered at the community garden on Saturday to put up a fence and plant spinach, beans, snow peas and onions.
Together, we are 7 adults and 14 kids. Not all of us are gardeners. But the ones who came out on Saturday were eager to give farming a try.
“This isn’t what I expected,” said one of the kids in elementary school who was leaning on the handle of a child-sized shovel and watching a flurry of activity around her.
“What do you mean?” I asked as her siblings unloaded rolls of fence from the trunk of a near-by mini-van and put the bundled green mesh next to green metal stakes and twine that lie on the nearby grass.
Adults were mapping out a strategy to successfully secure a fence around the 20- by 30-foot Plot No. 6. They had rakes, shovels and a rubber mallet along with bamboo, sturdy sticks and thick wood.
“It’s much bigger than I thought,” said the little girl looking at the garden.
But she didn’t let the size of the job intimidate her, and neither did anyone else. No one was in charge. But everyone found a job to do.
When the adults needed help digging a trench around the patch to secure the bottom of the fence in dirt, the kids rallied with shovels and rakes in tow. They were careful with their tools and worked with focus on the task at hand. Once the fence was in place, they put on their garden gloves and got down in the dirt to push soil back into the trenches.
They squatted with a ruler to measure where to plant the bean seeds, making thumb prints two inches apart along the fence. They took turns writing their impressions in a paper journal that the Green Thumbs keep in a plastic bag inside a Tupperware-like container at the garden site. They listened as the manager of the community gardens offered tips and fun facts about growing vegetables.
Together, the group engineered an entrance to the space and solved problems such as unexpected holes in the fencing. They used string and wooden stakes to create straight lines for planting. They tied pie pans above a row of strawberries to scare off critters and birds.
Adults and children alike paused in unison to watch a bluebird as it perched on a pole in the adjacent garden. People laughed, chatted and reminisced while they worked. They shared stories about relatives who had gardens, about the weather, and about themselves. Some of the Green Thumbs had never met before, but by the end of the chores they already were good friends.
When most of the work was done, the families lingered. One of the kids had made Chex Mix and shared the treat in plastic cups with those who washed their hands. The kids sat on the back fenders of a tan mini-van and white Suburban parked at the edge of the garden to eat their snack.
The Green Thumbs plan to plant more vegetables on Mother’s Day after the threat of frost passes. But as a group, they’ve broken the ice and gotten off to a great start. The garden project already has surpassed expectations.