Category Archives: community gardening

Welcome to the jungle

I’ve been enjoying the new location in the community garden.  Last season, we moved from the very front to the very back. It’s doing really well so far this year.  Maybe even a jungle, of sorts.

I can’t help but feel a bit of pride, but I’m sure it’s luck — and some learning.  First, I’m not one of those folks who plants in rigid schemes. I’m more of a tuck-in kind gardener. For example, I have established perennials, such as rhubarb and a variety of flowers (Montauk daisies, sun drops irises, day lilies, herbs, and others) that anchor the corners and sides of the plot.  On one side are two raised beds.  So some things get planted in rows, while many others, including annual flowers, get tucked into empty spots.

This year, things are packed pretty closely, which actually also helps with weed control.  Tomatoes are elbow-to-elbow with borage and cucumbers, which are next to the pole beans.  And the mixed packet of sunflowers I planted are massive.

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Remember my lamentation about the straw as a weed suppressant? So far, it has worked out just fine.  Whoo hoo!

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There is nothing that beats the fragrance of fresh carrots right out of the warm ground.  Picked the last of them today (at least until the Fall). What an amazing treat.  The basil was a close second.

Here’s what we harvested this week:

  • Beets – a couple were still left. This year, I planted a mix of golden, red and chioggia.  It was the best year for beets I’ve had so far
  • Carrots (multiple colors — so pretty to roast)
  • Lacinto Kale – I like the flat leaves
  • Swiss chard — rainbow, which means some have pink stems, some white, some red, and some yellow
  • Green beans
  • Herbs: Sorrel, thyme, basil, dill
  • Rhubarb
  • The first tomato of the season. Black Krim — sweet and delicious

Left the peppers on the plant to mature a bit more this week.

A bit of the harvest was donated to the food bank. There’s a collection area right in the garden!

At 90 degrees, it was hotter than I usually care for, but the time flew — as it always does when I’m outdoors or in the garden.

Dill 2016

Green bean in flower 2016

Can’t beet this

Summer sure is busy. So much going on, the garden is just one of them!

The community garden has been doing well so far. This year, we’ve got beets — no nibbling critters so far. And a bounty of chard and kale. The carrots are finally maturing.

So many pretty, subtle jewel tones between the beets, chard and carrots.

Community Garden

Since I only get to there a few times a week, I’m not sure what I will find at the community garden. Inevitably, most times, any apprehension melts away once I arrive and dig in.

However, last weekend, I was alarmed to find a surprise.  Our birdhouse had fallen and landed on a large rhubarb plant. I dreaded what I might find.

The contents had spilled out and I carefully peered under the rhubarb to assess the damage.  Bird nests are not necessarily a cute array of straw and grasses.  Sure, there was some straw, but there was also aqua-colored plastic twine, small pieces of clear plastic sheeting, small bits of broken  plastic odds and ends, black string, large feathers.  Apparently it’s perfect for the tenants.  Apprehensively, I searched to see if there were signs of any birds among the debris. Relieved, none seemed to be around.

I righted the pole and the house. As I walked back from bringing some of my harvest to the community food bank cooler we keep onsite, it seemed the residents — or some new ones — were already moving back in.  This was taken at a distance, so a bit blurry:

Birdhouse

Aside from the birdhouse, it was a good harvest this week, including lettuces, chard, kale and pak choi.  So much goodness from a handful of seeds.

Get Planting Greens 2016

Rhubarb and radishes

I have three or four posts worth of content this long holiday weekend.

Saturday: A Cautionary Tale
Saturday at the community garden is marked by an epic fail that confirms experienced gardeners do stupid things.  This is one I’ll be paying for all season, and possibly well beyond.  Let’s just say I generally use landscape fabric there for weed control, but for some reason I decided I’d use salt hay this year. Which was, of course, sold out from every garden center by the time I got around to looking for it  (I do in fact, have a day job!).  A trusted local garden center insisted straw would be fine. So I looked it up on the interweb, and read that by definition, straw should have no seed heads.  Imagine my surprise when I get to the garden, unpack the straw, pull some out from the bale, and there it is:  Seed heads everywhere. I should have thrown it out on the spot. But I didn’t.  I put it down, and at some point in the future, the weed suppressant will be the weed source.  And of course, all this happened after the hay blew all over my car, which is another mess –and another story!

Sunday: Lazy Day Enjoying the Garden and Nature
At the home garden, everything’s coming into bloom at once. We can thank the sun and heat for that.  A few weeks later than usual, peonies are in full swing.  Cut several vases full, and will be giving some to friends.

Dad_s Peony 2 2016

My dad gave me these two peony plants. Each year, they remind me of him when they come into bloom. The white is a favorite, with its subtle fragrance.

Dadswhitepeoney2016

Early in my gardening adventures, I was obsessed with antique garden roses. The two that have remained have earned their place — they’re beautiful, tough survivors and ]fragrant:  The Quatre Saisons and Felicia.  Felicia is one of Pemberton’s hybrid musks.  I love the delicate blossoms and the way it can be trained as a small climber.  It has survived being dug up and replanting when we built our addition.  It can also be seen inside our back room, backlit by the sun.  The Quatre Saisons similarly has survived multiple moves around the garden.

Rosa Felicia 2016

Sunday Supper
From community garden, I brought home a respectable haul of rhubarb, French breakfast radishes (so pretty, and tasty), and gorgeous greens:  pak choi, lacinto kale, so many lettuces, tiny chard. The rhubarb made a delightful dessert in this delicious recipe by David Lebowitz.

BachelorButton 2016

Fall Feasts

It finally feels like fall!

This is Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.  No, M. didn’t mention it (for once!), but anybody who is Canadian living in the U.S. has mentioned it this weekend. They celebrate at the right time for harvest.  Our U.S. Thanksgiving is great, but a little late to be a harvest celebration.

The garden is still producing up a storm.  It makes me happy to see how well the first season in this new plot went.  Each weekend we’ve had such a nice array of fresh veggies, herbs and flowers to grace our table.  Today’s visit: more beautiful golden tomatoes, the last of the basil, baby dill, gorgeous-smelling thyme, a few peppers, the new little kale shoots, chard. Plus these lovely Montauk Daisies.  Such a great way to remember and honor my dad, who rustled some cuttings on his daily run and rooted them for me. They’re huge now.  They seem to like the sunny community garden vs. the shadier home environment.  Makes sense — Dad lived at the beach in his retirement and they thrived there.

bee montauk daisy get planting

Speaking of feasts, check out this photo of the bee on one of the daisies.  You can see the little pollen sacs on each side — the little guy’s getting ready for his own feast.

If you’ve never tried growing a vegetable or herb, why not give it a whirl? It’s fun and easy, and you always put your garden in pots on your patio if you don’t have space.

Weekend breakfast

We’ve been fortunate to have a community garden plot up near the Frelinghuysen Arborteum through the Morris County Parks System.  Even though there’s now a community garden within walking distance of our home in town, we don’t want to leave the wonderful community where we’ve been tending our little organic plot for more than a decade.

This year, we were given the opportunity to move to a sunnier location within the garden. Moving a 20 x 20 plot full of plants was a project — especially in the cold, damp early April weather.  But we were greeted with a welcome gift, a nice surprise from the former gardener, who had moved to California over the winter– some asparagus. Not too shabby.

Last weekend, we took home a nice harvest, including carrots and yellow squash  It made for a really nice breakfast this morning.  I simply washed the greens and gently scrubbed the carrots – no peeling necessary, they were so small.  After some fine slicing, these were sauteed with the squash and a bit of olive oil and fresh herbs.  On the other side of the pan, eggs.  Grated some pepper on top, and there was a simple, delicious, one-pan meal. You could grate a little cheese and add toast, if you wished.

What could be an easier, prettier dish on a Saturday morning? Colorful, fresh, flavorful… and maybe even healthy. You could exchange other fresh green — spinach, kale, chard or beet greens. Why not give it a try?

Speaking of great food, there are so many inspiring sites! Turntable Kitchen is a recent fave. Food and music, what could be better?  Their savory rye waffles are the great base for a Sunday morning breakfast. I have also long been a fan of Zoe Francois.  Zoe Bakes is always inspiring. And Will Cook for Friends is both yummy and gorgeous — her food photography is amazing.