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First Garden 2013

Here, we arrived at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois at the end of September, 2012.

Around March or early April 2013, we had applied for use of a community garden plot, part of Fermilab’s Garden Club on Fermilab’s property. The cost was $10/yr and the only other fees were associated with upkeep (gas and maintenance) of the motorized equipment, such as an hourly fee for the rototillers. Horse manure, for fertilizing the soil, is free of charge, as is the water and land. We were pretty overwhelmed to hear it was a 20′ x 40′ piece of land. That’s 800 square feet! We considered sharing with someone else, as we thought there was no way we could fill up that much land, let alone care for it.

On April 11 (before discovering our garden plot), I decided I wanted to grow sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) in a container. It would contain the root system, which can become invasive and take over an area. Because we’re here on a three year contract, we can’t really put roots down.

Here are the sunchokes just 17 days after putting the bulbs in soil!

Sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) 17 days old (April 28, 2013)

We started our own seedlings at the end of April, just as soon as we discovered we got a garden plot! So here we have the first sprouts – ya, you can’t tell what they are, but we labeled them all.

Our first tray of seedlings sprouting in early May 2013

But there was one problem. There was no way we could put these into the ground after the first frost and hope for a good crop by the end of summer. So a fellow garden club member gave us some of his tomato runts he’d nearly thrown out. We were really thankful for this! Here they are after putting them in their own pots.

Our first tomato starts, a gift from a fellow gardener

The whole idea of starting a garden was exciting and daunting. My only hands-on experience was volunteering with the University of British Columbia “Landed Learning” children’s garden. I shared the responsibility with my young and enthusiastic partner (who always had a smile on her face!), Kelly, and 3 eager (and easily distracted) children. We had one small raised bed to cultivate and start seeds in late Winter. Check out the children’s garden at this post.

So it became one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. We’d figure out each hurdle as we crossed it. It’s become a crash course in gardening!

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