Time to put the gardens to bed, and what better way to get the job done than with a big old work party? As usual, there was plenty on the agenda. The compost bins were out of sorts, the food bank crops were spent, weeds had overrun the common beds. And the kids’ plot was in desperate shape.

I farmed myself out to the food bank beds with clippers and a spade. My friends and rookie pea patchers Molly and Alex reached for their hoes, strapped on kneepads, and headed off to tackle the long-neglected kids’ plot. Not long after they called me over to check out the situation. There was a mess of volunteer cherry tomatoes at one end, and the ripe ones tasted like stars. On closer examination there was a big stand of kale. Cardoons that needed pruning but seemed a sure thing for spring. Dozens of pretty wild radishes from a single plant left behind. Baby borage. Onions big and small. It was just a vegetable garden gone to seed but felt like a precious and prehistoric discovery.

Two hours and the ladies had the whole thing cleared, pavers stacked to the side, edibles separated for the food bank, cover crop seeded, and two dozen of the healthiest kale plants left behind to keep things going through winter. Never underestimate those volunteers.