This morning's Washington Post has an article beginning on page 1 of the Metro section. The title of the article is "In Fairfax, Gardeners Fear Uprooting of a Culture." The article covers some proposed rule changes for Fairfax County's community gardens. The "authorities who manage the county's community gardens" are made out to be the bad guys in the article, and I have to admit I am pretty willing to go along with that slant.
One gardener, Chris Erickson, has cancer, and her 30 x 30 garden plot has helped get her through treatment while nurturing her soul. But Ms. Erickson has violated the no woody plant rule by planting roses. Not only are roses not allowed; grapes, raspberries, blueberries and trees are also banned. I can understand banning trees that shade another plot, but what about dwarfed, espaliered trees that don't shade adjoining plots? They are a no-no, too. Ms. Erickson has planted dwarfed and espaliered pear, apple, cherry, nectarine and peach trees, so she's really on the wrong side of the rules. But her garden plot sounds absolutely fabulous - exactly what a garden should be and what I wish mine were.
Of course, the Fairfax gardeners are up in arms, forcing the new parks chief into public relations mode. The county will now appoint a committee, which will include gardeners, to review the "proposed" rules. Some other adjoining counties with community plots plow the plots at the end of each growing season. But we live in the Baltimore/Washington area. Most years we have a long growing season. Crops like parsnips are much better after frost. I've harvested parsley from my garden after brushing the snow off, so when would be the right time to declare the season over?
The new parks chief John W. Dargle, Jr., had this to say, " I have sensitivity both to the gardeners, because I am an avid gardener, and a sensitivity to staff expertise." I'd like to know just what expertise the staff has. It might be considerable, or it might be predominantly bureaucratic, and that worries me. Bureaucrats should not regulate gardens; gardeners should regulate gardens.
I agree community gardens should be governed by rules, but those rules should be made by, or heavily influenced by, real gardeners. There are successful examples of self-regulating community gardens which could serve as models. I fervently hope community gardeners in Fairfax County, like Ms. Erickson, will not be forced to dismantle their gardens, many of which are obviously labors of love, that have sustained them through illness and FED them, for goodness sake, while providing a place for non gardeners to visit and even use as a setting for wedding photos. A garden that feeds the tummy and the soul at the same time sounds like the perfect kind of garden to me. The kind of garden that provides beauty for the eyes as well as food for the table is the kind of garden so many of us strive for and is at least my idea of what EVERY garden should be. I hope the folks in Fairfax County figure that out.