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A Garden Above All the Rest

By: Ann Marie Awad

 – Last Wednesday, with the sun high, hot and unkind in the sky, I turned onto Gibson St, and with an oomph, pushed my car to climb the Broadway Market ramp up to the roof. I drove over to the corner and parked right next to my garden – my two plots, four feet by four feet, pushed together, with a few pots on the side.
Despite the surreal heat, the roof was pleasant and peaceful. It was during the workday, so I was the only one around. I hunted for the hose and started to water my plants. Red, yellow and orange tomatoes, okra, collard greens, sunflowers, lettuce, scallions, thyme, watermelon, cayenne peppers, spinach; they were all mighty thirsty. Because the garden is hoisted so high up in the sky, there’s no shade to protect the plants from hour after hour of intense direct sunlight. They need to be watered quite a bit to keep the soil from drying so fast. But I didn’t mind. Watering the plants was therapeutic, so much so that I watered a few other gardens that looked like they needed it.

I had heard about the garden through Facebook, and for a few reasons, the opportunity caught my eye. Last year I had attempted a container garden at my family home in Amherst, and practically everything went wrong. Not enough light, too much light, containers of the wrong size, and in the end, mold killed everything. Because of that, my dad was iffy on giving me space to try it again. Last year’s garden also cost a lot of money in pots, plants, soil, fencing, etc.

This garden was made available to anyone and everyone who wanted one. I had called to ask a few more questions, one of which being the cost. The girl on the other end of the line said there wasn’t one. No way, I thought. People could pick up as many plots as they needed; a guy on one side of me has over ten plots, all to himself. In a coy plan to bring people back to the market again, anyone could sign up to till their dirt on the roof. It’s worked, too. The Buffalo News got in touch with everyone asking for interviews, a local priest came by to bless the garden at our opening ceremony; a local weight loss group has even snagged a few plots. People have come back alright.  This is only the first step in a series of events planned for the market roof; there’s been talk of a classic car show and a driving range too. Unusual, but unusual seems to have done the job so far.
When I had pursued the informational meeting, I had discovered that not only would the market provide all the materials free of charge – compost, plots, water – but they would offer classes on gardening, maintenance, canning and preservation. I was blown away, and signed my name immediately.
The garden was built by Americorps workers, headed up by Amanda Beale, the market’s own Special Events Coordinator. Materials were contributed by Buffalo ReUse: shipping palettes and wood to build the beds on. A Mayor’s Summer Youth employee has recently come on board to help maintain the beds when gardeners aren’t there.

market roof garden 2.jpgIt took a while to get the garden built and I was anxious. My first batch of seeds had been killed by none other than more mold. Some things I wanted to plant were quietly edging out of season. I e-mailed everyone on the garden list asking if they had extra plants to spare and within an hour I had three responses, long lists of plants that I could take my pick from. I started another batch of seeds and also took another gardener up on her offer of plants. By the end of June I had a mess of healthy seedlings stepping all over each other to get some sun at home, and a few plants starting up at the market. Now I have the veritable produce section mentioned above.

The lack of rabbits and deer is wonderful, because only during the months of my garden last year have I ever hated them so much. There’s also a small community that has grown on the roof. People personalize their plots with lawn gnomes, bird feeders and signs. Gardeners swap plants and water for others when they’re not there. On a busy day, there are people sitting around in a circle chatting amidst their crops.

Sometimes I bring up lawn chairs so I can read a book when I’m done watering. The market is a nice place to be. It doesn’t hurt that there is killer soul food down stairs, ReUse is right nearby if I need to grab any materials, and I can play music from my car stereo to listen to while I’m working. Sometimes I feel guilty that helping rehabilitate the market feels so easy and enjoyable. It feels like it should be more work, more elbow grease, and no place for lawn chairs; but instead I get to mildly toil away in my own little patch of dirt, chit chat with my plot neighbors when they’re there, and kick back when I’m done.

I filled up my water bottle from the hose and checked over my plants one last time, with an eagerness easily dismissed as “nerdy” to return in a few days and check on them again.


Ann Marie Awad is a
senior English major at the University at Buffalo, who is also studying
journalism. Awad has been published in Artvoice, Generation Magazine
and Eat Me Daily (a food blog). She has a passion for supporting local
businesses, great coffee and Saturday mornings at the farmers market.

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