“One day at a time” is a slogan used by many ambitious people, such as athletes, business entrepreneurs, and politicians. It conveys the wisdom of breaking up a difficult or prolonged task into manageable parts. Many religions and philosophies also emphasize that the present moment is all we have to work with.
At Garden for the Environment this phrase takes on a special meaning, since we have really only one day to do the basic maintenance of the garden areas and vegetable beds. On Wednesday every week, a dedicated group of volunteers and interns show up by ten in the morning and for the next four hours, we break into crews to weed, prune, compost, and fertilize. This is the day that sets the stage for the school field trips on Tuesdays and Thursdays and for all the wonderful Saturday programs, from the adult classes and class series to the harvest program.
Today was a typical Wednesday in the garden and by ten the crew was ready to work. One group went up the hillside to the newly improved native plant pathway. Here, they weeded and mulched the native plants and watered the newly planted ones. Many of the plants on this pathway now have labels thanks to the work of this crew, so visitors to the garden can see native plants blooming and beautiful, and take home the inspiration to plant natives in their own backyards.
Another crew broke out the big tarp and turned the compost pile. Our middle bin was up to about 110 degrees, full of happy red worms, but it had cooked down to half its original size. Compost decomposes fastest in a large pile, ideally about a 3x3 foot cube. So we incorporated the newly chopped, unprocessed compost into the hot pile, in order to get them both cooking faster. Now we have an almost empty bin to start building a new pile in!
Another crew took a walk around the garden to see what work needed to be done in the veggie beds. Some winter greens were bolting and had to be pulled and composted. Many spring planted starts were ready for fertilizer, and the squash seedlings in the greenhouse were calling out to be planted. One of our irrigation valves hasn’t been working properly, so we pulled out the hose and hand-watered. There was some dog damage and some theft of plants to be dealt with as well. The beauty and the challenge of caring for a public garden is that everyone can use it!
Suddenly here comes a preschool field trip and the kids are full of questions. What are you doing? Why are you pulling those plants? I want to hug you! Next thing you know, an intern is getting multiple kid hugs and beaming like spring sunshine!
Throughout the day individuals, couples, and small groups of friends wander though the garden. “Can you believe I’ve lived here for ten years and never come inside the garden?” “I saw the article in Sunset magazine and I thought this was the garden they meant.” “How close can you plant strawberries?” “What is the name of that purple plant?” Next comes our neighbor, the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet, who politely asks if we can prune the giant bush that’s starting to block his driveway. Loppers and wheelbarrows and away we go!
Suddenly it’s two o’clock already and folks are starting to head home. The garden quiets slowly as the tools come back into the tool shed and get cleaned. The tarp is folded up and the compost education center is tidied. The greenhouse seedlings get a final watering and we turn the water off. Traffic is picking up on 7th Avenue as the afternoon commute starts. As the garden empties of volunteers, the birds begin hopping in the paths and feeding in the shrubbery. One final sweep of the native hillside turns up a few tools that got left behind and I stand for a quiet moment, entranced by the rich bloom of Ceanothus and the buzzing of so many different pollinators nectaring in the fragrant drifts of blossom.
One Wednesday at a time, it somehow all gets done.