How often does a Community Garden in a suburban town get to prove – and perhaps even to emphasize the importance of – an evolving understanding of an area of agricultural science?
|Double-click for a full-screen view|
|Ads proclaim plastic mulch|
The gardening season ended and the mats came up. Over the course of the winter of 2019-2020, we did a deeper dive and found an emerging theme: plastic mulch has a negative effect on the food web. It appears to benefit a crop the first year (by warming the soil), but harms it thereafter as the biome is sharply degraded by leaching petroleum distillates and excess heat which kill off the microscopic life in the soil.
|The mats went down for a second year;|
the gardener claimed 'hardship'
|In early September, the crops grown|
with mats had fared poorly
|An adjacent garden on the same date|
Demand for plots, already high, exploded this spring of 2021. Many gardeners who had started with 300-square-foot sites wanted to upgrade to full-size ones. In response, Betty and I activated a plan to expand the Community Garden by an additional 3600 square feet – adding between five and ten new plots.
|We have been no-till for eight years|
and the results have been stunning
In planning for the 2021 season, we made an assumption that, over the winter and early spring, the ‘wildlife under the garden’ would re-colonize the formerly plastic-covered space. In March, we assigned the site to an enthusiastic second-year gardener moving up from a 300-square-foot plot. She planted both seeds and sets for an intelligently designed vegetable garden. She watered regularly when warranted.
|The garden in mid-June 2021. |
Vegetables simply wouldn't grow
in the plot and even weeds were sparse
At the end of September, Betty and I are allowing the plot to grow up in weeds. Next month, we will overspread it with, and dig in, manure.
Will the space be healthy next spring? It is surrounded by gardens with non-compromised biomes. No point is more than thirteen feet from soil teeming with life. Surely, seventeen months after the plastic mulch was removed from the plot (October 2020), the soil will have healed. Won’t it?
We’re not so certain. We’ll test the plot’s soil early in the spring; then decide if the space is ready to be gardened again.