Saturday, April 30, 2011

My Victory Garden

This is something I never knew about before, but something like the German "Schrebergarten" also existed in the United States during the World Wars. The US government asked citizens to plant gardens and grow at least some of their own food in order to have more available for troops overseas. The garden club where we now have our garden in Dresden was founded just after World War 2, the former airport of sorts and later illegal dump was parcelled off and leased to the hungry Dresdners so that they could grow some food. I read one account from one of the first gardeners in our club, they couldn't start planting things right away, first they had to clean up their parcel, remove things like tar paper, wire, building debris, bricks. Even worse, they had no water to water their plants once they were able to start gardening. They had to schlep it from Königsbrücker Straße, which is a bit of a hike.

This is our victory garden just after we got it about 4 weeks ago. The cottage was most likely built in the 60's, during the GDR, and upon closer inspection, you can see that it is cobbled together of the simplest materials. The roof is a hodge podge of different sized boards. Whoever built the place worked hard to even collect all the necessary building materials. In the before picture above, you can see almost how the place looked when we got it. The only things missing are all of the junk that filled up 2 dumpsters and the lawn furniture strewn about the front yard. I'd already transported the useable stuff behind the house.

Here's how the place looks now, 4 weeks later. We couldn't imagine all of the nice plants that would start popping out of the ground as spring sprung. There are a lot of flowers (roses, peonies, tulips, hyacinths, different kinds of lilies, and lots that I don't know the names of), herbs (lavender and chives), bushes (currants, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries) and fruits and vegetables (strawberries, rhubarbs and today we discovered asparagus!) already there, the beds and the plants just need to be cleaned up and transplanted to fit our vision for the garden. New beds also need to be dug and prepared, since we are required to (and want to) grow fruits and vegetables on a certain portion of the land.
The original plan was to simply plow the place and plant some seeds, but after it became clear what a great selection of existing plants there was, we started transplanting and carefully cleaning up.
So, what's the victory in my victory garden? Obviously I'm not farming for any war efforts. First, it's a victory for my kids. They can wallow in the dirt and get crud under their fingernails just like I did as a kid. They can simply be kids with no TV, no computer, no iPod, no CD player, no room full of toys... They just have lots of space, dirt, plants, snail shells, worms and other assorted creepy crawlies to indulge in. It's definitely a victory against boredom and getting stir crazy at home in our little tiny place. The trip to the garden is a nice 30 minute walk or a short bike ride, there's enough space for everybody to do their own thing if necessary, and oh, is there ever LOTS to do. There's something very satisfying and relaxing for me about pulling quack grass and dandelions. It's a victory for my nerves. I am so fried at the end of the week that it's nice to be able to absolutely switch gears, go someplace quiet, and do something very different. And of course the clearest victory of all: the delicious treats we will soon be harvesting!

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