Friday, June 7, 2013

From Parking Lot to Produce: Vestal Then and Now

Green grows the Vestal Community Garden.

Ladybugs and earthworms and smiling friends and neighbors mingle. Students, teachers, leaders, and volunteers tend the ground, gathering up those little ribbons of soil beneath their fingernails.

Do you recall the way this blazing hot car park transitioned to growing thick with edibles? As I've tended my own plot over the years, I've watch the garden and the community grow around me.

August 2009: Depave hosted their largest project of the summer, removing 6,000 square feet of asphalt from the Vestal Elementary School parking lot.

Photo Source: Depave

Early Spring 2010: I remember well the thrill of hearing I'd been granted a half plot for the first season of the Vestal Community Garden.

April to June 2010: The Garden Takes Shape. By April, I'd added amendments and compost to my garden beds, built a few little bamboo trellises for peas, and planted herbs, strawberries, and a few flowering things to entice the neighborhood pollinators. The school garden beds were framed but empty, waiting for the students to come out and play.

April 2010: First Signs of Life
June 2010: Greens and peas and more...
And school garden sprouts beyond!

Summer-Fall 2010: Order and color in every direction. Hoses and sprinklers and buckets... Strawberries and Swiss chard and summer squash. Neighbors took time to build raised beds, compost bins, and raspberry trellises, and harvest time brought smiles and satisfaction.

Season 2011: Perennial plants grew a little taller. My neighbor's artichoke continued its growth spurt, and my favorite rhubarb kept plugging away, inching toward the rootstock and stem growth that would yield a fine pie someday...

I shared tips on Planning Your Kitchen Garden, growing more excited at the thought of planting a new generation of Violet Podded Stringless Beans, harvested from last year's crop.

The best joy? My husband and I brought our sweet little neighbor Penny to the plot, and she helped plant violets and pansies, water the tomatoes, harvest leeks, pick strawberries and gather gorgeous poppies to take back home... 


Season 2012: No photos.... In 2012 my good friends Allison and Luke tended our garden plot while we spent a year abroad. I'd receive email updates from time to time, though, and the best news came at the end of 2012 when Allison and Luke let us know they were moving to Oregon City to start a farm after tapping into so much inspiration at the Vestal Garden!

Season 2013: Back from overseas, ready to reunite with my garden patch, I donned my rubber boots and braved the March chill to come to the spring kick-off meeting. Joined by a couple dozen eager community gardeners, we reviewed garden protocols, volunteer tasks, and reports of the upcoming season's events.

At the time of the spring meeting, we hadn't yet found housing in the neighborhood after our travels. Profoundly, my little 10' x 20' plot of garden land was the most tangible patch of earth I had to call "my own."

After a little post-winter cleanup and transplanting of volunteer lettuce, garlic, and herb starts, I smiled at the sight...

...and a bit later this spring, I carried on the search for more starts and seeds.

May 2013: Kids in the garden; plots full of springtime promise.

Vestal Community Garden, Growing Strong in 2013

And Now...? My biggest grin still comes from finding little grandchildren descended from my little friend Penny's originally pansies planted in 2011... 

Little Penny has since moved to Colorado with her family, and I've been around the world and back, but here at my plot of earth atop a once-barren bed of asphalt, Vestal soil proves deep and rich enough to sustain the threads of life that tie our common history, weave generations together, and promise great things for the future...

Bethany Rydmark is an eighth generation Oregonian, a landscape architect, and a proud Montavilla resident and Vestal Community Gardener. She blogs about equitable, meaningful food at
If you have Vestal Community Garden stories to share on the blog, send her a note or drop a line at the Vestal Community Garden Facebook page.

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