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Beginning a Medfield gardening story

By Amelia Tarallo
Hometown Weekly Staff

Each year, dozens of Medfielders reserve a space at the community garden for the summer and successfully manage to harvest some quality produce. I’ve seen the products: juicy red tomatoes, ridiculously large zucchini, delicious corn. The list goes on. It’s not a shocker that there is a long line to get into the community garden each summer.

“One thing we do not have to do is find people willing to take plots.  This year, and especially after March 1, we were overwhelmed by people wanting gardens. At one point I had ten people on a waitlist,” says Neal Sanders, a co-manager of the Medfield Community Garden. “When a plot became available two weeks ago, I put out a notice and had eleven 'takers' in two hours, including one individual who lived in Walpole and drove by the garden every day (plots are restricted to Medfield residents).” 

That’s almost exactly how my dad and I ended up with a plot of our own. Months ago, Neal Sanders put a Facebook post up about a spot opening at Medfield’s community garden. I asked my dad if he wanted to do a half plot, mostly as a joke. To my surprise, he said yes.

Here’s the thing: I have never kept a plant alive in my life. When I first arrived at Mount Holyoke, I was handed a plant and was told that I had to keep it alive until graduation. It didn’t make it past the first month. I don’t think my dad has ever been in charge of a plant in his life. There isn’t a single green thumb among us.

On the first day we arrived at the garden, I instantly picked out the formation of all of the plots. Almost all are fenced in, raked with rich, dark, dirt making up the entirety of their plot. No one had planted anything yet, from the looks of it. “It’ll get easier once you get the fence up,” my friend, Lydia, said to me. This is her second year with a plot at the Medfield Community Garden. 

"Of course it’ll get easier," I thought. But no one truly expressed how hard the fence is! My dad, brother, and I came to the garden with some plastic fencing material, green metal poles, twine, measuring tape, and shovels. Looking at the materials, it didn’t seem too hard. Our plot-mates had already put up their fence. All we had to do was put up the other side. 

About an hour in, my brother was on the verge of walking into the woods and never coming back, my dad was questioning his life choices, and I was truly wondering what we had gotten ourselves into. 

Upon walking the garden, we had seen Lydia and her dad working in their plot. I, trying to prove that I, too, could handle the pressures of gardening, hadn’t asked for fence installation tips beforehand. This was a bad decision on my part. To be perfectly honest, I was the kid who did the least amount of work in the group project when it came to the fence. I watched as my brother barked suggestions at my dad, implemented them, and observed as the fence posts fell over or leaned to one side. I don’t know how, but somehow, Lydia and her dad started helping us with the fence. 

To build our fence and actually get it to stand up, we ended up digging a shallow trench about 6 inches deep on each side of our plot. My brother and Mr. Plakias somehow ended up kneeling in the dirt, trying to get each of the fence poles to stand up. I don’t know if it was Greek or gardening magic, or if we actually did it right (I’m skeptical about this last one), but somehow, the poles stayed upright. 

As they worked, my dad began to attach the plastic green fencing material to the poles, using twine to secure them together. Every couple of poles, the fencing material would slouch a little. My dad would tug on the top of the section, only to frown when it slouched back again, or in the worst case, snapped off the pole.

Two hours after we had initially arrived, my dad, brother, the Plakiases, and I had somehow gotten the garden fence up. Our plot consisted of dirt, with green weeds growing spectacularly well. “Listen, I’m not going to lie to you two, that was not fun,” said my dad as we drove home. “I can’t even say that was a fun bonding activity. That was just… It wasn’t fun. But hopefully it will get better.” 

My brother made it clear that he was not coming back to the garden during the summer, while my dad vowed that he would be back later in the week to do some weeding. I had agreed to this project, and whether I liked it or not, I silently promised to go over, every week, as a way to spend more time outside. It’s fine if I don’t get a single thing from this project, I reasoned, as long as I at least get outside.

While I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing, I do know that I'll be at that garden every week this summer. I'm seeing this project to the end, even if I leave without a single tomato.

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