For years I've wanted to do more to beautify the inner city property of our Lutheran church and school here in Racine. Now my classroom is being moved across town to this property so I asked permission to begin an urban garden. When I looked around the property for a spot, I saw a small area that had already been cleared with a rock border and some remnants of another years tomato plants. I thought this would be a good place to start. Being a cool sunny morning in June I thought this should be easy work, but I was wrong. Even though the breeze was cool coming off of Lake Michigan, I was soon dripping with the effort of weeding and turning over the soil. There is always a tedious side to the joys of gardening. I kept plugging away at my small effort and as I walked away I turned to admire my work: it was barely visible! Now I want to add to it, but plan to go in the afternoon when the work area will be in the shade.
Even though we lived in the city, and my dad was city born and raised, we always had a garden. He kept this up into his eighties and only gave up his tomato plants when forced by heart problems to move to a condominium. So I would like to dedicate my urban garden to him, and all the memories of our vegetable gardens growing up. They were never pretty gardens, he would hide the garden behind the garage and tie up the tomatoes with whatever was available. But he always seemed to enjoy scratching at the weeds, tilling out some fresh vegetables from the dry, dusty soil.
He attempted to have a garden in the country when I was in high school. We would drive out there to weed and it was sheer torture in the hot sun, not the enjoyable hobby it was in our backyard. He kept it for several years after I left for college and had summer jobs so I was unable to help. It inspired my brother to have his own garden in the valleys between the bluffs in LaCrosse. There he showed us his garden with pride, on a friend's property so beautiful I imagined it must have looked like this in the Garden of Eden. It was lush and velvety green, with a brook tumbling over rocks nearby. What a pleasure it must have been to pause and lean on a hoe while weeding and glance around at the scenery that took your breath away. Years later, when I see the owners of that property on rare occasions, I still recall the beauty and reminisce with them. I can't imagine ever wanting to leave a place as wonderful as that. I wonder if one takes it for granted when you see it every day.
So I will have my urban garden, with concrete tumbling along side of it instead of a brook. Hopefully the students will plant their own tomatoes next spring and I will tend them carefully over the long hot summer, starting a tradition for them to carry on with them into their futures.