Editor’s Note: Fruits of our labor


Our garden sucks. That’s what my mom and I say to each other a few times a week these days, after one of us treks up to our tract at the community garden to water our sad-looking plants.

I talked her into helping me with a 5-foot by 20-foot plot—one of the smaller ones available at the large piece of city-owned property down the street from where I live in one of Cleveland’s inner-ring suburbs.

I’d always wanted to try gardening, even though my husband and I can barely keep up with the lawn and beds in our quarter-acre yard. But the community garden—with its sunny site, tall fence to deter deer and on-site water supply—seemed like an easy decision. You sign a document agreeing to garden organically, pay $25, help out during a few volunteer days and get to work.

Having a garden will be fun, I thought. What a great outdoor summertime experience for my girls, ages 5 and 6. We’ll meet some more neighbors, and we’ll get to enjoy the fruits—and vegetables—of our labor.

First, I tried recruiting my husband, Mike, to undertake the garden with me. It didn’t go over well.

“I barely have time to mow the lawn,” he said. “And do you realize I work for a produce company?”

It’s true. In theory, I could avoid shopping for and growing produce altogether. But whenever I need him to bring something home—a tomato for tonight’s salad, bananas for tomorrow’s breakfast—he forgets. “Make me a list,” he’ll say. “And remind me.” But still, he often comes home empty handed. So I pick up the produce I need at the store, and I consider any stray melons or peppers he brings home to be a bonus.

After Mike declined to get on the gardening bandwagon, I got my mom—who lives nearby and is watching our daughters a few days a week this summer—to agree to help with the planting, watering and weeding. We’d pay her in zucchini and beefsteak tomatoes. She’s tried gardening before, but deer and bunnies usually spoiled her efforts.

We didn’t do a ton of research. We opted to add three four-by-four raised beds to our patch. Then, we picked up some plants, including a few heirloom tomatoes gifted to us from a coworker, and put them in the ground Memorial Day weekend.

Since then, we’ve watched others harvest garlic and other things planted in the fall. We see the gigantic squash blossoms and baseball bat-sized zucchini the veteran gardeners grow. And we look down on our meager corner of the garden. We have two tiny, green peppers dangling. That’s it.
I’m honestly not very surprised. I had low expectations of having a green thumb. My mom—who fondly remembers bounties of backyard vegetables from her childhood—is more disappointed.

“Stuff will pop up,” the other gardeners tell us, but I’m not so sure. “It takes a while for your soil to develop,” they say. I hope they’re right. But how long? I think we’ll try again next year and see if it goes any better. If not, I may have better luck trying to get my husband to remember my list.

Marisa Palmieri

Marisa Palmieri

Marisa Palmieri is an experienced Green Industry editor who's won numerous awards for her coverage of the landscape and golf course markets from the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA), the Press Club of Cleveland and the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE). In 2007, ASBPE named her a Young Leader. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism, cum laude, from Ohio University’s Scripps School of Journalism.

To top
Skip to content