The garden is truly a community garden now. Not only have we been granted official community garden status by the municipality community garden maven Eran, which means reduced water bills and help in all manner of areas, but our dedicated team of gardeners pools ideas, shares know-how, confers, mucks in and even meets at the weekend for lunch.
The garden is now divided into allotments, where each of us has one, two or more beds of vegetables, herbs and flowers.
In spring we planted 9 new fruit trees in addition to the fig, Feige, which was planted in September last year and is doing well. We hope by next year to be harvesting pomegranate, lemon, fig, and almond in addition to the vegetables we are all growing. The vines look magnificent and this year we are guaranteed a healthy and abundant harvest as grapes already cluster on the vines, hard and supple and shiny.
Jack was amazing in his ability to keep us going when things got tough. We had few people, the soil was dry and rock hard, the apricot tree gave up the ghost after we painstakingly dug her in and surrounded her roots with mulch, the woodchips got contaminated (don’t ask but a cat was involved), the compost turned manky, the overhead (shmitta) awning snagged and tore and was hard to take down. But each day Jack was there, toiling in all weathers to get us back on track.
He explained the importance of raised beds and water conservation, applied emitters to our irrigation tubing, collected discarded wood which we used to build the sides of our raised beds and grew seedlings on his terrace which have since been transferred and are now flourishing plants in our beds.
Vered, from a moshav shittufi in the north, Nir Etzion, came with considerable gardening experience. Her cucumbers and cherry tomatoes taste amazing, her pumpkin leaves are as soft and delicate as a kitten’s ears, her corn billows in the wind and her courgette flowers would be the envy of a Provencal master-farmer. Her basil has been the staple of my pasta dishes since late spring. She is a model gardener, always in good spirits and willing to help.
Jon, Betzalel, Jerry and Andrew are out newest community gardeners, each with experience in a different area and each with a bed or two to their name. Jon is trying a curious combination in his bed of beets, lemon grass, corn and sunflowers; Betzalel is more conservative but promises to sing to his peppers to help them along; Jerry, a long-time gardener, has planted eggplant, basil, tomato and pepper and we are looking forward to ratatouille and homegrown pizza (topping) someday soon. Andrew only joined us a week or two ago and has already planted several baby pumpkin that he started on his terrace at home.
Jack wanders around helping us all, mending leaky tubing, filling in beds that are lopsided, cutting wood and buying gadgets and widgets that you wouldn’t know the name of in English, let alone Hebrew. He doesn’t have his own bed though the broccoli that is growing in mine is actually his. I’ve been cutting off the flowering heads for weeks now and enjoying steamed broccoli with melted mozzarella. The trees that you can see from the roadside were his idea and he was instrumental in getting the vines back into shape when they got tangled up in weeds. Neil has returned full of gusto and his bed already looks like something out of the Moosewood Cookbook, which is great given his recent adoption of a mostly vegan diet.
The sun shines every day, from morning to evening. A new mummy cat gave birth to 3 kittens and greets me at the gate as soon as I arrive. The toolshed is tidy, the paths are clean, the watering is down to a minimum, our home-made compost enriches our beds, the Jerusalem Post is the perfect mulch. The 30 large sacks of woodchips the municipality has promised us will serve as additional valuable mulch and will be strewn around the wild section of the garden to demarcate a weed-free area for sitting and schmoozing (as yet not shaded…the newly planted trees will provide that next year). In addition to this social area, we hope to create a second similar area near the entrance gate and close to Mizmor shul, where an old tree already provides a modicum of shade and will be supplemented by an awning, chairs and a table made from collected palettes. This area might even serve as a succah.
We invite all Mizmor-goers to enjoy the area for a regular once-a-month al fresco Kiddush!