Then I moved to the District five years ago, and my list of five must-haves in a condo — proximity to work, affordability, dog-friendliness, gas cooking and outdoor space — was reduced to four. Now what would I do? I sold the gear, took my dog to a nearby dog park. Suddenly, I couldn’t stop thinking about the garden I’d never have. In my new apartment, there is not even a big enough windowsill, let alone enough sun, for potted herbs.
Just a week after moving in, though, I was walking down 15th Street less than two blocks from my new home when I saw it: a sign sticking above a line of shrubs that said “Temple Garden.” Behind it was a half-block square of green, a community garden.
I opened a little gate and took a walk around. Nobody was tending a plot at the time, as I followed the little mulch-covered paths and ogled tomatoes, eggplant, chard, peppers, basil and plants I didn’t even recognize.
I knew it immediately. This would be my savior.
A visit to the Web site and an e-mail exchange burst my bubble. Yes, there are 80 plots, but there is also an 80-person waiting list, I was told. And the turnover was only about 15 to 20 plots a year, usually because people move out of the Zip codes required for membership. You don’t have to be good at math to see how long that could take, but no other community gardens were near me, and no others had openings, either. I put my name in.
Three years later, I got the nod. It was July, and someone had left their plot mid-season. I was in.
I enlisted co-worker and friend Jane Black, another single cook with more interest than experience in gardening, to split the sweat equity and whatever meager bounty might result.
And we fumbled around. I had gotten some good firsthand lessons in gardening over the previous several years from my sister Rebekah and brother-in-law Peter, who in southern Maine grow, and put up, enough food to sustain themselves year-round with precious few other food purchases. But I had never put those lessons into practice, and Jane and I were both impatient.
So we took some shortcuts, especially when it came to soil prep and weeding. We muddled through: planting a quirky mix, starting much of it too late to get very far that summer, and then proceeding to forget that we should be thinking about the fall as well.