What first happened: Shortly after moving to Lansdale, Pennsylvania, I learned Silk Factory Lofts would be sponsoring a community garden in an interior section of its patio garden. Happy news for this gardener new to apartment dwelling. There is no doubt, community gardening is another way to stay gardening.
First the Evergreens Clearing Out
A palette of Yews approximately eight yards long dug out with about one foot left on each end. Perhaps, it was theorized, gardeners needed book ends to hold up their plants.
Cutting off the evergreen branches was backbreaking work, but plants and roots were removed in one day. Landscapers dug out the roots and later shoveled in compost. Though, I found it was not enough. I felt chunks of clay soil and clumps of deeper orange roots. I added bagged organic compost that contained worm castings. Later I fertilized my plants with an organic manure tea called, Authentic Haven Brand Soil Conditioner, sold in tea bags. Love that stuff!
A day’s worth of cleaning, the wheelbarrows are filled with boughs and wood.
Then the Planting and Growing Vegetables
The first planting of a planned vegetable garden (well, any garden) always looks as though everything will fit! I created my portion of the garden in a container and in an in-ground garden. The 24” diameter and deep container was planted with one of each: sweet banana pepper, creeping rosemary, creeping jenny, eggplant, and cherry tomato.
First fruit came from the sweet banana pepper; it was promptly picked and chopped, and added to scrambled eggs. The in-ground garden had another cherry tomato plant, named Sun Gold, a sweet green pepper, and a sandwich-sized tomato called Big Boy. Herbs planted at the edge of my garden were tri-colored sage, flat-leaved parsley, chives, Greek oregano, and thyme.
Eggplant flowers are simple and pretty, but often hidden by the plant’s large leaves. If I was planting this garden again, I would have put the eggplant in the ground. The plants are heavy feeders and at mid-summer need water more than what a container can easily provide. I would switch out the sweet green pepper plant; the large container pot could handle it.
A single banana pepper plant provided enough bounty for several neighbors to try; feedback said this was a keeper for next year’s garden.
Learning and Eating the Harvests
Sweet bell peppers took longer to mature, but they are always worth the wait. Love them cooked up with onion and spooned into a pan frying up brats. Yum! Parboil the brats in beer, even better.
Cherry tomato ‘Sun Gold’ produces a small fruit on a big plant; an indeterminate type. The square tomato “rings,” I find are sturdier and are also easier to store during winter as they fold flat. Peony rings are too small and become unstable as the tomato plants keep growing.
Cherry tomatoes grow on a vine and are so prolific that the harvests become ongoing snacks.
August 7, the first ‘Big Boy’ tomato was harvested.
Gardening Hints for Next Year
Next year, plant herbs for feeding yourself and wildlife. The fennel caterpillars of the swallowtail butterflies found. Though the basil is an annual, the plant should be in a 6 – 8 inch pots, which will allow the plants to thrive to the end of summer. Harvest leaves of herbs for cooking before the plant flowers.
Herbs are a good investment for any garden. Inexpensive to purchase, they may be used for food, sweet scents, and color.
Save plant tags – use them to mark your seeds growing in trays, label plants outside in your garden, or to record favorites in your journal.
By the end of June, your tomato plants will develop suckers that eventually form into branches, pinch off the suckers when they are small. They drain the nutrition from the plant and add unnecessary foliage.
In a container, an old yardstick can be used for staking small vegetable plants like pepper plants or determinate tomatoes.
Tending to a plot of ground in a community garden. Opportunities open up to grow a wider variety of plants. Whether the location is a patio garden or in a park, it is a chance to grow food or flowers, and to stay gardening. For me, this community garden was a welcome sign to Pennsylvania and to my home at Silk Factory Lofts.