I spend an hour at dusk getting our community garden plot ready for winter. It’s a 10 foot x 10 foot patch of rich, black earth that’s owned by the city of Seattle and squatted by us, in exchange for a nominal fee and eight volunteer hours. The patch was sizeable enough to keep my husband and me in radishes, chard, lettuce, squash, cucumbers, wax beans, string beans, beets, carrots, fennel, and tomatoes for the whole summer. We even got a volunteer potato. And the harvest was abundant in spite of late transplantings, bad crop juxtapositions, and a squash plant that preferred preemptive warfare to diplomacy, that took over one-third of the plot despite some aggressive hackings. It was often a month between grocery store runs during the summer. All that’s left from the summer garden now are chard stumps and a few butternut squash, which will hopefully ripen fully before our first real frost.

I had high hopes for a substantive winter garden, with crucifers and hearty greens, but I now realize you need actual skills to eat your own produce here in fall and winter. So all that’s left are a few lettuces – merlot, Bibb, mache, mizuna, endive, radicchio – plus a half-dozen struggling collards and a few bulbs of garlic shooting into the cold sky. There’s also a pathetic little stem of kale, and a few little broccoli shoots that have been gnawed mercilessly by slugs, their tiny flower heads blossoming with distress. I don’t know whether to put them out of their misery or wait to see if the side shoots produce.

Meanwhile, the rest of the patch goes to bed for the winter with a cover crop to enrich and shield the soil. I’ve already made a few sketches of what next spring’s gardens might look like.

The city of Seattle website has info on the P-patch community garden program.