The Story of the Church Garden
by Bryant Leman
Well, it’s hard to say when the garden started. I’ve only been here the last four years. It was lying fallow for at least a few years before another fellow and I decided to organize people to plant the garden with permission from the covenant members. They gave us some seed money (literally) and from there we got it growing again.
I’ve heard there used to be snap peas, big ol’ sunflowers and other stuff growing, but no one seems to remember when it started exactly. Of course, I’ve never asked anyone who’s been here long enough to come up with the year it was founded or tell me who built the existing raised bed that is the centerpiece of the garden.
With the current rendition of the space, I and others, to varying levels of interest and volunteerism, have now been going strong with our fourth planting season already off to a good start with some garlic we planted last fall popping their green tentacles out of the earth, reaching for the new warmth and sun that the spring has brought.
We have the traditional vegetable plot each year consisting of some mix of greens, tomatoes, squash, peppers, basil and a few others; some experimental plants and planters, such as a Concord grape vine, hardy kiwi and upside down planters; as well as the yard next door (I lived there when we first resurrected the garden and began blending the spaces together then) that features many herbs, flowers, a fig tree and some strawberries. The church grounds were also previously very nicely planted and I’ve been working at weaving it all together so as to promote all kinds of life in a little nature sanctuary around the church.
The garden has, of course, provided food to church members. Though, as someone put it the year we tried growing potatoes and failed miserably, “If we were farmers, we’d so be busted right now!” It has also been an experiential learning classroom for kids in the after-school program, a great place to hide Easter eggs for the annual Sunday School Easter Egg hunt, a place for people to discover and enjoy the natural ebb and flow of the seasons, and the list goes on; it means many things to many different people.
The crux of it all, I believe, is that the garden represents a journey. Things are planted, come alive, and then die here. Some things are well taken care of and produce very well because the conditions are desirable for them. Other things (like the potatoes) just don’t quite make it for one reason or another. We try many varieties and methods and figure out what does and doesn’t work. Many hands work together to bring forth the best communal results possible within those means, but still relying on the natural elements to do their thing. We make plans in the garden, but expectations may or may not be met.
Each year at the start of the season, we evaluate garden needs and wants. Our goal is to produce more food, have more fun, become better stewards of resources, get more people involved, and continue to improve the natural flora and fauna around the church.
We live in a city and work with limited space. But even the little bit we can do and have in the garden is a lot of fun and presents an opportunity to continue the journey. As to who started the garden, it doesn’t really matter. What matters is they did start it, which provides us an opportunity now to take the next step in the journey. And the next step is really what gardening is all about for me.
I hope you’ll be able to find your own meaning in the garden as it pertains to your journey. And maybe try one of our tomatoes or a leaf of basil while you’re there…