Monday, October 04, 2010

See how our garden grows!

Here butterflies and bees fare far to rove

Amid the crumpled leaves of poppy flowers;

Here four o'clocks, to the passionate night above

Fling whiffs of perfume, like pale incense showers.

A little garden, loved with a great love!

-From “A Little Garden” by Amy Lowell (1874-1925)

I’m going to take a little time off from regaling you with stories of my rocky road to rehabilitation with news of an exciting event that took place at our headquarters here in Great Barrington, MA. Last winter, I joined the other members of our Green Team to discuss the creation of a company organic garden in the empty plot behind my mum’s house. We’re fortunate enough to own a lovely bit of sun-drenched land within walking distance of our local food bank. I had a vision of us toiling away in the garden, rewarding our efforts with lunches of crunchy carrots, crisp lettuce, and mouth watering berries, and putting together a basket of surplus produce for the food bank across the way. Well, dear readers, it happened. As I write this, I’ve got a mason jar full of fresh cut flowers on my desk, we’re reaping the benefits of a tasty fall harvest, and we’ve got a basket of juicy tomatoes and leeks en route to the food bank down the way.

It took quite a bit of effort to transform our cozy Green Team discussions about the garden into a garden. Now, I’m no newcomer to gardening. You might even say I have quite the green thumb. But when my husband announced that he intended to plant 20 yards of asparagus, I realized that we had to get organized. Really organized. And let me tell you, we did.

Because of its promises to save us (and our backs) from an invasion of weeds, we decided to adopt Mel Bartholomew’s square foot approach to gardening. We started out conservatively with a 42 x 18 plot, and got right down to the dirty work: we tilled the soil, brought in compost, dug soil beds, spread wood chips…we even constructed a compost bin! Somewhere around May when the black flies threatened to turn our joyful project into something of a nightmare, many non-Green Team members stepped in to get us past the least glamorous parts of the job. Bob did much of the digging with an impressively large and rented rototiller, employees brought in extra tools and contributed wood to make the bins, and many local farmers donated seeds and starter plants to help us with our exciting project.

From an initial list of about 40 vegetables, fruit and flowers we hoped to plant, we narrowed the selection down to 29. I’m proud to tell you that Bob’s 20 yards of asparagus did indeed, make the cut. (Check back in three years to find if they grew or not!) After a luscious, hot summer, we can’t give our heirloom tomatoes away fast enough. Beans, summer squash, kale, chard and leeks have also thrived. Our blueberries and strawberries have, too.

I want to give special attention here to three irreplaceable members of our Green Team; Margherita Lamanno, Megan Choquette and Mery Chaires. These three women put immense amounts of brain and muscle power into this garden, and set a great example for the rest of the team. Margherita worked extra hard to keep everyone informed with regular updates and photographs, along with seasonal recipes. I caught up with her recently to share our impressions of our first harvest. “What a fantastic first year garden we have!” She said. “It is a beautiful reflection of all our hard work and efforts as a community. It makes me smile looking out in the sunshine and to see butterflies dancing around our bounty.”

I, too, feel proud of our garden. The parallels between our growing garden and our growing company warm my heart. Both require hard work, dedication, a little bit of sweat, and some intuition. Both demand patience, and watering, too. One with real water, and one with ideas. I just can’t wait to share more of mine with you as our garden grows.