First thing’s first

Every morning, I wake up and water the plants.

tiny universe

Found in the corner of a neighborhood coffee shop

In these succulents is an imaginary man who lives for summiting the cactus and dashing off to the kitchen at night when no one is looking for little crumbs of food. Where are your miniature garden scapes?

Garden pluck

I’ve been gardening for a little over a month, and I feel surprised at the benefits. I started running again. It’s a two mile round trip from my house to the gardens, and it’s my reason for getting out in the morning. The way there is rough. I’m in the part of town that has a sidewalk but feels more dangerous with the path being on a busy street. In a way, the difficulty has steeled my resolve to run. I run because of the hammering clank of the cars whizzing by who always seem to startle me when they ride over the raised manhole cover, in that place that seems like it would be so still.

When I get to the gardens, I stand outside for twenty minutes or so, striding back and forth over each garden with a hose. So far, I have not seen many predators, other than a single Japanese beetle and a slug that got stuck on my shoe. To mitigate the slugs, I have heard that saucers of beer help. If the beetles persist, I will need to read up on tips. One of the gardeners in my club said he had a moth last year who laid eggs in his zucchini. The moth babies embedded themselves inside the zucchini and ate their way out. I am not so sure how to mitigate the moths. I have seen one so far, but I am not sure if it is a zombie zucchini kind.

Beyond the army of insects, it is the work I have yet to complete that remains the obstacle to success. I still have seedlings in grow racks that are living in these tiny plastic containers. There is a neon pink lamp that feeds them, along with daily watering, and it reminds me that I still need to coordinate the garden build for raised bed number four. There’s watermelon, cantaloupe, zucchini, red onion, carrot, and beans left to be planted, and it feels inhumane keeping them cooped up. A family member has generously donated funds to build the next garden structure, and I plan to have it completed sometime in July.

Introduction

I am the founder of MakeIt Grow, a community garden that grows in the back yard of a maker space in Nashua, NH called MakeIt Labs. The purpose of my project is to reclaim outdoor space with gardens. This project came about because I had an aloe plant that I had with me all the years I lived in apartments. I still live in an apartment, and I have never had a yard to grow marigolds, or a trellis to water ivy or a safe patch of land to grow vegetables. Last winter, I forgot about my aloe plant and she froze to death on the three season porch. This project is a tribute to anyone who has a khaki-colored to black thumb. You can grow a garden, and you can re-grow your narrative.

What is a maker space? It is a facility that provides shared resources for people to complete their projects. What happened with my project is this thing called cross pollination, which basically means that overlapping interests and multiple people contribute in meaningful and unexpected ways.

Who we are and what we do: Maker Spaces in a Venn Diagram

In May 2019, I became a member of a maker space in Nashua, NH. At orientation, I told the leadership that I was interested in starting a community garden, and they encouraged me to locate interested makers who wanted to participate in building and maintaining the gardens. So, I reached out to members on the everybody channel on Slack which is the workspace social media platform used to communicate with other members of the maker space. In all, there were seven interested members, three of whom I named in my proposal to the board. Upon approval of my project, we had amassed our interested members and been given a budget of $400 to build our garden.

Using the Slack garden channel, our club named ourselves, MakeIt Grow, after the name of our maker space, MakeIt Labs. It was on the garden channel that we voted on which crops to grow, as well as coordinated times to meet. We planned a pizza party to plan our gardens. We took a tour of the back yard of the labs, and sketched out from a Google maps picture of the labs where we wanted to place the gardens. Next, we created real-time Excel spreadsheets that determined the amount of money and equipment we would need. Originally, I had wanted to build six gardens, but we determined there was really only enough money for two raised beds. I offered to pay for the third raised bed because I figured it would be enough space for us to grow the amount of vegetables we had to grow.

About a year before I started this project, I reached out to the University of New Hampshire’s Cooperative Extension and they donated non-GMO organic seeds for this project: radish, beets, red onion, crown pumpkin, cantaloupe, watermelon, stringless peas, green beans, cucumber, zucchini, carrot, lettuce, and spinach. It was due to this generous donation that we opted to grow our plants from seeds and therefore saved a ton of money.

The green place

My name is Hilary, and I am the green space manager of MakeIt Labs, a maker space in Nashua, NH.

There is a scene in a movie Mad Max, where women are traveling across a desert in search for the green place. In the setting of this post-apocalyptic world, the green place is where the water is, it is where they are all from, where they grew up, and their purpose is to reclaim the green place from the throes of the evil villain, who rations water from the people.

In our world, I believe that green places are everywhere, and it is our duty to curate them. I like to reclaim them with gardens. I encourage you to look around at all the green places and find a way to do something creative and fun with them, whether it is to have a picnic lunch, play ball, or spread a blanket out under a shady tree and read a book for a few hours.