Hoping for Hubbards

The gardening adventure begins

By Elle O’Casey

This past weekend felt like summer. Snow was melting at a rapid rate and mud was rising even faster. I sat out on the deck with a stack of seed catalogues and let my eyes absorb the colorful descriptions of rainbow chard and Zeppelin delicata squash. I wanted to order the entire Fedco seed catalogue. Hastily scribbling my selections into a well-worn notebook, in just a matter of minutes, I’d accumulated a list of nearly 45 different kinds of seeds to order.

It was at this moment that my mom’s advice echoed loudly in my head, “Whatever you do, keep it manageable. Start small your first year and built it out from there.” I glanced at my seed wishlist again and reluctantly began the painful process of whittling down the selections to a more manageable number.

This unbridled seed enthusiasm stemmed from the fact that I was about to plant my very first garden. Each summer prior to this one, I was rootless. Either renting, moving, or about to move, I never dug into the local soil and planted something I could call all my own. But this year would be different. It was finally time to try my hand at growing my own food.

Sustainable Woodstock gardeners get ready at the Billings Farm community garden in Spring 2016.

Sustainable Woodstock gardeners get ready at the Billings Farm community garden in Spring 2016.

I make no claims at being a gardener. I am only a women making a sincere attempt at becoming a person who produces something rather than constantly consuming. So far, figuring out where to start has been a journey in itself. What should I plant? When should I plant it? What do I do about bug invasions? Frosty nights? Too much rain? Ever-present deer? The questions continue to multiply.

One of the first places I turned to find support was to Sustainable Woodstock. Sustainable Woodstock has several community gardens and is a strong supporter of local food systems. Sustainable Woodstock began hosting community gardens in 2009 under the guidance of master gardener Anne Dean. Today, Sustainable Woodstock has community gardens located at three sites: Billings Farm in Woodstock; Chippers in Pomfret; and King Farm in West Woodstock. These gardens are used by more than 40 families and four organizations.

The Sustainable Woodstock Community Garden Council manages the gardens, in keeping with its mission to “foster a community of friendship and cooperation through organic gardening.” Its activities include garden talks; community dinners; work days; and communal purchasing of plants and seeds. Some of the gardens such as the one tended by the Change the World Kids grow food entirely for the Woodstock Community Food Shelf, and other individuals and organizations also donate their surplus food.

In 2010, Sustainable Woodstock helped build and maintain 25 raised beds alongside individual mobile homes at the Riverside Mobile Home Park. After the park was badly damaged by tropical storm Irene, Sustainable Woodstock returned to rebuild those gardens in time for the 2012 summer growing season. Sustainable Woodstock has also supported gardens behind Mellishwood affordable housing and at the Woodstock Elementary School.

During the month of March, this column will feature stories looking at how to start and sustain your own garden. If you would like more information on how to get a community garden plot in one of the gardens Sustainable Woodstock manages, email Cassidy Metcalf at cassidy@sustainablewoodstock.org or call 457-2911. Learn more about these community gardens on our site.

As part of our Green Drinks series, Cassidy Metcalf, SW Community Garden coordinator, and other Sustainable Woodstock community gardeners will talk about the upcoming season and how to participate. Any gardener interested in a garden plot at one of our three local gardens year is welcome to join us for complimentary snacks and good conversation. These discussions are free and open to everyone. Join us on Thursday March 16, 5:00-6:00pm at the Worthy Kitchen.

Do Just One Thing: Join the conversation on community gardening March 16th at Worthy Kitchen.

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