Plot Rasa: Newark Street Garden

Finn and Amanda Donaldson must have had a good feeling about the condominium that they looked at in McLean Gardens.

That same day, they also put their names on the waiting list for a plot in The Newark Street Community Garden, located across the street.

It turned out to be quicker to move into the condo that they bought than it was the garden. Getting into the garden took a year.

“It was a thicket when we got it, weeds up a couple of feet,” said Finn.

On an early Sunday evening at the end of October, not long after receiving their assigned spot, the two were putting the finishing touches on their garden beginning, a blank canvass with a woodchip gesso that was held down with a frame of old bricks.

Neither has had much opportunity to garden, with no convenient space in the area where they had been renting in Mount Pleasant.

They’ve already gotten a taste of the trouble of trying to blend gardening into life, like having to accommodate a recent business trip.

“It was heart-breaking to be away for two weeks and come back and see all the weeds,” Amanda said, noting that they informed the garden governors that they would be away so as to stay clear of the disciplinary code. “We told the board so that we wouldn’t get our wrists slapped for not weeding.”


AS IS: The Finn and Amanda Donaldson plot at The Newark Street Community Garden in Washington, D.C., awaits further instructions. Photo Credit: John A. Bray

Now they are ready to dig in, with green thumbs in their lineage. Finn grew up in Scotland, with his father tending a garden, and Amanda is from Maine, where her mother and her partner have a gardening and landscaping business.

Planting plans?

“Really, I’d just like to make salads, and have it completely from the garden,” Amanda said, the sun fading on a day where the temperature reached up to the low 80s. “It just tastes better.”

With a laugh, Finn scanned the empty plot. “We just want something to eat, maybe some flowers for the table.”

Or maybe a bit more than that, Finn offers, with the garden in Scotland coming to mind. “Red currants. We had seven or eight bushes in the garden. And gooseberries.”


GARDEN ON A HILL: The south end of The Newark Street Community Garden in northwest Washington, D.C., with the National Cathedral beyond the trees. Photo Credit: John A. Bray

© 2016 John A. Bray