We parked near a large wooden gate, the look of which made for a very inviting feeling. Beyond was a tin roofed timber awning with sitting areas underneath and plenty of shade vegetation around it. We entered the garden and Nadia was glad to see that Russel was indeed there, putting around as gardeners do.
Technically this was the River Road Community Garden, but as is often the case, it was largely the project of one dedicated gardener. Russel was quite genial, and he showed us around. His installation was very neat and orderly, with clear beds and nice pathways. I saw several figs that looked ripe, and he welcomed me to eat them. So tasty! He had few other perennials, growing mostly garden vegetables and flowers. So many beautiful flowers!
Wooden pyramids had been constructed for climbing beans, which were already on the climb. Lots of squash was also growing. Sage, lavender, Echinacea, and fennel, plus greens, tomatoes, beets, onions, and artichokes, and all looked healthy and well cared for. The greatest fertilizer is the gardener’s shadow, and the garden itself shows that touch.
Next door was nice rock garden and a new house, which had been constructed by one of Russel’s friends. Russel used to live very nearby, but he was pressured further out because of rent explosion. Yet still he drives in to care for his garden. What a lovely spot he’s created, producing a great deal of food. Much of it goes to members in the community, and some is taken to market.
We didn’t stay long, with two more stops yet. This was in June, and the days get hot as early as ten o’clock. We would be done before the worst of the heat came. This is one of the biggest challenges when growing in south Texas. The heat in late summer kills even heat loving plants like tomatoes and peppers. You basically get two seasons, one before the really hot months, and then another after. Cold loving plants have a much shorter window in this climate, but one can grow them. An even bigger challenge is finding good water. I expect that almost all of the projects I visited in urban San Antonio were using city water, which is less than ideal. Rain catchment is great, though it takes a pretty good sized tank to utilize it. Renewable Republic had a big tank, and they might be watering their whole garden from rain, but usually you’ve got to have some ground or city water, and if all you have is city water… no es bueno.
This is a major logistical challenge for agorism. We must redesign water systems so that poisonous chemicals aren’t required. It’s just a dumb idea, really, to put poisons in your water. On site purification seems much smarter, if not in every home, in every neighborhood. Two thousand years ago, Rome had a population of about a million people, and they managed to deliver fresh, clean water via aqueduct to all parts of the city, and almost every home. Of course, they weren’t doing as much to pollute their water, either, as far as industrial extraction or agriculture go. Still, if they could do it with stone canals, we can surely do it with our available resources. Careful water use is essential to a successful economy and community, and gray water systems ought to be par for the course. None of the water we pipe in ought be piped back out contaminated. So much of the water we use could be reused on the land, but is instead dumped into the sewer system. If we were to redesign our towns and neighborhoods, this could be remedied.
Even just in designing or retrofitting our own homes, we can set up separate drainage for gray water and put that water to use on our land. There are so many tricks for really making good use of what we have, and by visiting different permaculture sites, we see how different systems work and what the possibilities are. So let’s continue on to another community garden of sorts, with a recent permaculture overhaul.