As much as I have grown and changed through this semester, the gardens I’ve worked in have grown and changed as well. Starting a garden during the middle of winter mean that I got to experience the garden from the ground up. The first process I observed was the fallow season for the beds. We allowed the beds to be fertilized and rest during the winter so that they would be ready for planting in the spring. We also planted green fertilizers like clover so that the beds would be more productive once we planted.
Watching the beds develop from fallow to planting to harvest and being able to participate in the entire process has been very educational. The Dogwood Gardens at Dr. Campbell’s residence at Berry College has been the place where I’ve see the most change. During the middle of the semester I spent time there harvesting kale and cabbage for the community kitchen. At the time the garden was fairly sparse because it was just towards the beginning of the planting season.
Upon returning towards the end of the semester the garden had a completely different feel. New crops were being planted and mixed in with the old. For example, where I had harvested kale weeks ago there was now tomatoes and basil planted amongst the remaining kale. In the beds that I had harvested cabbage from there were beans growing up a fence, on the opposite side of the fence corn was being grown to provide shade for the beans in the heat of the summer. The animals that had still been at rest for the winter were lively and active, running about the garden, clucking, meowing, barking, and generally lending to the carefree feel of the newly spring garden.
The entire garden was a small little ecosystem with new and old plants, animals, and compost all working together. This maximization of natural resources and symbiotic relationships had completely transformed the garden. Rather than organized rows of single plants there were rows bursting with two or three different plants the cats wander the garden looking for pests, the chickens and rabbits provide fertilizer, and so much more.
Perhaps it’s cliché, but I was excited to see the garden grow along with my knowledge of it. Both I and the garden started from the ground up and grew together, slowly becoming more and more complex. As I’ve grown, and the garden has grown, my appreciation for the agricultural lifestyle has grown. Working alongside Dr. Campbell and his family as well as other students has brought me closer to them, similar to the concept of commensality that Emily McClendon discusses in her articles. There’s something about being in the garden that’s good for community and good for the soul.