Archive for the ‘A New Community Garden’ Category

An everbearing strawberry plant in early fall

Last spring I planted 4 everbearing strawberry plants in my little veggie garden. I didn’t get a lot of fruit during the growing season, but the few berries I got, though small, were a gorgeous red — right through to the center. And wow, what a powerhouse of flavor! Most of the berries I picked went from the garden straight into my mouth! (These aren’t like grocery-store strawberries that are white and tasteless inside.)

About the low yield, though…I think the main reason was a thief of the small furry kind, spied one evening squirreling away with one of my berries. Hmmm, what to do about that next year?

The everbearing variety is designed to produce fruit in late spring and early fall. My sister grows June-bearing strawberries and they’re every bit as flavorful, but they come all at once, hence the name. A third variety is the newer day-neutral strawberry which can produce fruit all season.

Strawberry plants like to multiply. The original plant, “the mother” send out shoots called “daughters” and if allowed to take root, will become a new plant. I kept cutting these daughters off to keep things contained in my raised bed.

In late fall, strawberry plants need to be mulched over with straw for the winter to protect them from frost. I tend to be very frugal (Why spend money if you don’t have to?) and looked for other mulching solutions. I read that corn stalks can be used, and in an old gardening publication from 1894, I read that one gardener used dried tomato vines as covering one season when straw was in short supply (and it doubled his strawberry yield the following season). Bingo! There were plenty of tomato vines in the community garden compost pile.

Shown below is the first layer of vines. I added more for a few inches for a good covering. Now they’re all snuggled up for winter.

The first layer of mulch

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Fall seeds

The onset of fall felt like a new beginning. I had cleared out the garden and added new organic matter, composted leaves from last year. The fall was an opportunity to try planting new things. Beets, which I love, were a veggie I hadn’t tried growing in the spring. I love to eat their greens as well as the root. Later I heard a wonderful beet story on NPR about the new popularity of beets, which they’re calling a “beet renaissance”! Who knew?

I was thinking about planting garlic too…a few cloves just for fun. I will see how it does and maybe plant more next year, because over the last few years, I have discovered that garlic scapes make wonderful pesto. Garlic scapes are the “stalks” of the garlic plant, which are cut off so that the bulb can become nice and plump. Often the stalks are discarded, but my advice is not to pitch them. You wouldn’t want to miss out on their deliciously garlicy flavor!

Fall is also a nice time to plant another crop of lettuce and kale. Pictured is an heirloom seed packet for a type of kale I’ve never seen in stores or farmer’s markets, called Russian Red or Ragged Jack. I enjoyed a successful crop of it in the spring and found the young leaves are nice in a salad, eaten raw.

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Party invitation designed by 2011 East Row Garden Club president, Carole Weitner

On September 10th, the community gardeners had a harvest party on Nelson Place in front of the garden. We had much to celebrate! The first year of the East Row community garden was a huge success, and that evening we enjoyed our harvest, a potluck dinner made with our garden bounty, while enjoying the view of our beautiful vegetable gardens. It was a cool, clear evening which followed an afternoon rain.

All the members of the East Row Garden Club were invited, along with city leaders and others who helped make the garden possible. Elizabeth Shely and Rachel Comte, the community garden organizers, were honored for their vision and hard work.

We already have a waiting list of neighbors who would like to join us next year.

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Small pumpkin start with a beautiful squash blossom

This pumpkin vine climbed over the tomato plants.

This one extended clear to the other end of the garden and nestled among the strawberry plants.

In an earlier post, we saw the pumpkin trellis I made out of bamboo, which my garden neighbor said was too small. Was he right? YES! In the All New Square Foot Gardening Book, it says that 2 square feet are needed for sugar pumpkins. But in a square foot garden, the vine, which can grow to 6 feet long, should grow vertically. The trellis would have worked better had it been taller, but I was trying to be respectful of my garden neighbors and not shade out their gardens. The trellis was somewhat helpful, but ultimately the vines needed to spread farther, so they climbed over the tomato plants and extended themselves to the full length of the garden. I tried to train them to hug the outside edges of the garden, so the vines could grow without interfering with other plants. But they crowded out some lovely red pepper plants that had a good start but never got fruit, and some purple snap beans as well.

Despite the way they took over, I have to say that watching pumpkins grow was thrilling. The squash blossoms were pretty, and it was fun to see the fruit ripen from green to orange. Unfortunately one pumpkin was stolen, but the others were harvested (5 in total) in late October and early November.

Would I grow them again in a 4′ x 10′ plot? Hmmm, it was very rewarding but I have to say the jury is still out on that one.

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Lovely landscaping

Now that our veggies were happily growing, some of the community gardeners turned their attention to the area surrounding the garden. Lovely!

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I doubt there was any more excitement among the community gardeners than when the first tomatoes began to ripen. We eagerly awaited harvest time, because I think for a vegetable gardener, a tomato is like the crown jewel of the garden. Truly, there is nothing better, juicer, or tastier than a fresh, vine-ripened summer tomato. I planted several varieties including Roma, Beefsteak, Cherokee Purple (heirloom), cherry, and a sweet and fruity variety called a pineapple tomato.

The tomato harvest was thrilling, but unfortunately brought with it a problem not uncommon to urban and community gardeners — thieves. Here and there, tomatoes started disappearing and we didn’t know if our thief had 2 or 4 legs. I soon found out when I encountered a homeless man in our garden one evening with a plastic shopping bag, helping himself to our tomatoes. I exchanged a few words with him but soon realized that he wasn’t all there and quickly left the garden.

He was observed one other time, headed down Lexington Ave, this time with a garbage bag full of tomatoes. We figured he planned to sell them. Our mentor at the Civic Garden Center said that this is a common problem of community gardens. We worked with the police, and although easy to climb over, put a lock on the gate. Signs went up saying, “Members only, no picking.” I don’t know what happened to the homeless man but the problem seemed to go away. Most of us, I think, would have been happy to share the fruits of our harvest with anyone truly hungry, if asked.

Those gorgeous tomatoes continued to come, well into late October.

Delicious summer tomatoes! My favorite, the Cherokee Purple, is shown top middle.

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June 25-26 was the weekend of the 2011 East Row Garden Walk, an annual tour of some of the lovely flower gardens in my neighborhood in Newport, KY.  There were 11 home gardens on the tour, and our community vegetable garden was a point of interest. Weeks prior, I had planted seeds for small sugar pumpkins on the west side of my garden and made a small trellis out of bamboo. My garden neighbor smiled when he saw it and commented that I should have built the trellis twice as high. Really? I thought, they’re just little sugar pumpkins. The square foot gardening book says they only need 2 squares.) More on that later!  : )

The home garden tour was lovely and inspiring. And all of the community vegetable gardens were inspiring as well! For the first time I saw Brussels sprouts growing. A fascinating plant!

Whaddya think? Is that pumpkin trellis tall enough?

Beautiful Brussels sprouts!

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