The weather this spring in Cambridge has been great for the garden, if not for us humans. Many of the plants that barely made it through the heat of last summer have re-emerged this spring looking lush, green and tall, even in the tiny sidewalk patches I’m trying to cultivate.
I made two major changes this spring:
First, we removed the boards from around the edges of the plots. These were built by one of my neighbors when we first moved to Cambridge Cohousing, around 1997, and served then as a visual notification that we cared about this property. Over the years, though, as they’ve gradually fallen apart, we decided not to maintain them and started taking them off, one by one. The partly boarded/partly not arrangement had started to look – to my eyes – kind of scraggly, and seemed to signal to passerby that it was fine to drop your trash or not pick up after your dog. We took off all the boards, and now, with softer dirt edges around all the plots, this has become a much friendlier and safer sidewalk for anyone with wheels – people using wheelchairs, people pushing strollers, and the occasional sidewalk bicycle rider (mostly children).
Second, I mulched all of the plots. With the boards off, I was concerned that the “natural” dirt edges would signal “nobody cares about these areas” and attract more trash. So when the commercial landscaper came to plant our main lawn fence border, we got extra mulch, and I used a bunch to mulch over the little plots. I didn’t realize what an impact this would have, but it’s made all of the beds look like they are “formal” gardens, and the plants are planned, not weeds. We’ve seen much less dog poop and litter in the plots since I made these two changes. I hope it continues, even when the rain stops!