Hawthorn Community Garden

Small Plots, Big Plans |

Late in the day is usually the busiest time in the Hawthorn Community Garden but it’s a bit quiet this brisk spring evening. A few days after a May snowfall, the snow has melted. Most of the gardeners have probably stopped by to see if their seedlings weathered the frosty nights but may be waiting until things are less soggy to resume planting.

Gardener Dan

Gardener Dan

I wander through the southern quadrant of Hawthorn near the bike path where a couple of young guys are working in their gardens. Both Dan and Andrew are second year gardeners at Hawthorn, and they’re taking last summer’s failures and successes into account as they plan this year’s harvest. “I tried too much variety last year,” Dan says. He’s focusing on the stuff he really likes and has put in lettuce, carrots, snap peas, zucchini, canteloupe, and sweet corn. The rows of tiny seedlings are cozy under a layer of straw.

Andrew doesn't look like he misses city life.

Andrew doesn’t look like he misses city life.

A few plots over, Andrew is digging into beautiful dark dirt –he added a lot of compost last summer when he joined Hawthorn. He’d just moved to Colorado from New York City and says, “community gardening seemed like another good way to enjoy the outdoors.” He’s planted snow peas along once fence, and can also look forward to beets, carrots, broccoli, bok choy, potatoes, lots of greens, and raspberries.

Everyone at Hawthorn is friendly. Last summer I met a man who’s gardened there since the 70’s – he doesn’t bother planting anything new, but just lets his greens, herbs, and flowers reseed each year for lots of tasty foraging. Across the path from me, Charles, originally from Alabama, has two full plots and a lot of expertise. He starts dozens of varieties of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, etc. in his greenhouse every year. I bought some seedlings from him – heirloom tomatoes and broccoli – and am pestering him for advice as well.

People really personalize their gardens. I love this blue gate.

People really personalize their gardens. I love this blue gate.

The garden produces interesting conversations in addition to gorgeous vegetables and flowers. I’ve learned about bugs, “blossom end rot,” and how to grow hops. On summer evenings, families from the neighborhood stroll through with their dogs on leash. Small children play games, zig zagging on the paths between the plots. If you take time to chat with someone in a nearby plot, they are sure to offer you an armful of fresh-picked kale, a couple of onions, a bunch of carrots.

The Children's Peace Garden at Hawthorn.

The Children’s Peace Garden at Hawthorn.

The sun dips behind the foothills. I admire my garlic one last time, and take a final peek inside the “walls of water” protecting my tomatoes. I’ll be back tomorrow.