Spring Garden Work Party

It is HOT out!

Garden water pump

Garden water pump

The hubby and I just got back from our garden’s Spring Garden Work Party.  When you sign up for a plot, you obligate yourself to go to a spring party and fall party to help start up and shut down the garden for the season.  If you can’t make your own garden’s party, you can go to any other garden’s party to meet your requirement.

Our party started at 9am and we immediately got to work cleaning up trash, turning over mulch, weeding, and cleaning up plots from last year.  We got to meet quite a few people and it is very multicultural.  Lev is our “next plot neighbor” and there is also Oksana and her husband a little ways away.  There was an young Australian guy named John, who was from another garden, along with Steve, who’s accent I couldn’t place – he was just there from GE.  LOL, I couldn’t figure that out.  GE is General Electrics, the major employer (or used to be) in Schenectady, and I don’t think Steve actually had a plot, he was just helping everyone out.

Our other “next plot neighbor” didn’t show up, and hasn’t been to his garden at all.  Apparently his name is Walter, but I wonder if he’s going to do anything, or is just waiting till later to start.

We also met Terry, Joe, Marissa, Joan, Sue, Pat, and whole bunch of other people that I can’t remember their names of, and I just met them.  Here are some pics from today:

Joe working on the mulch pile.

Joe working on the mulch pile.

Everyone pitched in to move this mulch pile to back fence.  This was going to be a new garden plot instead.

Lots of people pitching in

Lots of people pitching in

Cleaning up the plots

Cleaning up the plots

Sue working on her plot

Sue working on her plot

Lots of leaf bags everywhere

Lots of leaf bags everywhere

Hewitts, a local nursery, donates leaf bags to the CDCG.

Rhubarb plant

Rhubarb plant

Look at this huge rhubarb plant!  This is either Joe’s or Sue’s.

Weeding the flowerbed outside the garden

Weeding the flowerbed outside the garden

Everyone’s hard at work! This pic made me laugh because it reminds me of a Sprint commercial with those bars…

Veggie Mobile truck

Veggie Mobile truck

As we were weeding, a truck playing hip hop music really loudly came thundering through the neighborhood. We looked up to see this bright truck coming through.  This truck is part of the CDCG’s program to get fresh fruits and veggies to the inner city.  Here, many people don’t have cars and don’t have a full grocery store for many miles.  Lots of people rely on the corner store, which has lots of processed foods, but not a lot of fresh produce.  The Veggie Mobile is a refrigerated truck that runs on biodiesel and solar power!  It goes through these neighborhoods and gives out free, fresh produce.  We can grow extra food in our garden this summer and give it to the veggie mobile to pass out, or participate in the Squash Hunger program, which donates the food direct to the communities themselves.  CDCG is great!

Close-up

Close-up

There were so many people who showed up for the work party, we finished pretty quickly! And not a moment too soon – today is gonna be brutal!

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44 Onions

I’m beginning to see the benefits of the “community” part of community gardening. 🙂

The hubster and I headed over to our plot tonight to get restarted on our actual plot, instead of working the plot of the guy next to us. 🙂  When we arrived we saw one of the CDCG staff, Jenny, working her own plot in the corner across from us.  She said hello to us, and suggested we actually split up our half-plot a certain way to maximize its usage.  It was very helpful!  Then she excused herself to go get some onions in before nightfall.  The hubby and I measured out the plot, staked it and started turning over the soil.  It didn’t have any cover planted on it so it was much easier to turn over than Lev’s plot had been! The hubby decided to go over to see Jenny’s plot while I started picking rocks out.  He came back with 44 onion plants!  Jenny had too many and she offered them to us.

Onions!

Onions!

So I’ve planted the onions now and hopefully at least some of the onions will actually grow.  So exciting!  We turned over a bit more of the dirt and plan to do some more tomorrow.  We told Jenny we were going to Pigliavento’s to look for heirloom strawberry plants tomorrow and she said to pick her up a strawberry plant if we got any.  After 44 onions – hell yes!

This is our REAL plot

This is our REAL plot

Yay for garden neighbors 🙂

More garden pics

The hubby had off on Good Friday and took my camera, since his is still broken, to take some better pics of our garden plot.

The entrance to the community garden

The entrance to the community garden

It’s not really much to look at.

Our plot

Our plot

Does anyone have any idea what those “stumps” are?  We can’t figure out what grew there last year.

Strawberry plants

Strawberry plants

These are left over from last year.

The plot next to us

The plot next to us

Some people got a very early start! They already have seedlings!

We have a garden!

Hubby and I attended our community garden orientation Monday evening and are now the proud…er… “renters” of a half-plot for the season, woohoo!!

Being a community gardener is a little bit more involved than I would have thought it, and I do admit it’s going to be pushing me outside of my comfort boundaries a little.  Probably a good thing for me though.  It took me back to my days working for a non-profit as we walked up the stairs in a huge old school building in a pretty bad area of Schenectady.  We could hear the kids in the afterschool programs screaming in the gym/auditorium and shook our head at the condition of the hallways and classrooms.  It’s hard to imagine how the teachers do so much in such terrible conditions.

There were supposed to be 20 people in our orientation session, but only 7 showed.  Nobody looked quite like us.  Most looked like they needed a shower.  There was this crazy-looking guy (the only one without a partner) who evidently has gardened for years (apparently not with a community garden though)  and asked question after question.  There was the “hippie couple” who quizzed one of the orientation leaders about a new high school program that was being set up to teach inner-city youth about commercial farming to see if only organic methods would be used.  There was another couple in what seemed like dire need of a shower in the front row – very quiet.  And towards the end, two African American gentleman came in, very polite.  I looked at hubby and I, dressed in business clothes after a day at the office and felt ashamed that we didn’t give much more than the recommended donation (a little bit more, but not a ton).  It’s going to be good to break down my prejudices.  Not to say I’m bigotted or anything, but I obviously felt uncomfortable, and I shouldn’t.

The orientation leaders (there were 4 of them) explained to us how the community gardens worked, how we each would have a community chore to do as well for the whole garden, in addition to our plot.  We, along with 3 other people will be helping to mow/weedwhack around the edges.  They explained to us how the watering worked, what we can and cannot plant, the rules of the garden, lots of stuff.  There will also be a spring work party and a fall work party to clean up the garden at the beginning and the end of the season.  I admit, I feel a little bit overwhelmed.  I thought I would just give some money, be given a plot, and be let loose to plant what I wanted to (within reason  of course) with no interaction with anyone.  Um…apparently I missed the “community” aspect of this 🙂

I’m clearly desperately unsociable! 🙂

There are 48 community gardens run by CBCG.  Some are bigger than others, and we are in one of the biggest in Schenectady.  They have plots over in Albany and Troy as well though!  Albany’s are pretty cool – the city gives free mulch and plows up the gardens the first week of April so they can get started quickly over there!

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There was such a demand for community garden plots this year, they are only giving out half-plots to new gardeners.  Returning gardeners will get full plots.  But do you know the size of a half-plot?  When hubby and I drove out to it after our meeting, we were floored – a good 6×25 feet – easy!  I thought (and would have been happy with) 4 feet of space 🙂 It beats container planting on our deck!

In the dreary snowy weather of the day, hubby and I didn’t see much that would need mowing.  The area around the gardens are pretty rocky – it’ll be a bitch to mow.  They had told us our plot wasn’t used last year – the people who signed up for it abandoned it after awhile, but it looked like stuff HAD grown there last year.  We saw stumps of some old plant (couldn’t tell what it was) and old strawberry plants.  It would be great if we had strawberries growing on their own there already!  The community shed looked in great condition.  We checked off that we would plow and turn our own plot – if you wanted to wait till the end of May, they’ll do it for you, but hopefully we’ll get started before then.  It will burn off lots of calories, if nothing else!

Our garden plot

Our garden plot

Hubby took some pics of the plot, but we realized when we downloaded this one, his camera is clearly broken and all the colors and quality is off.  Boo!

We got to choose a few seeds to get us started.  We want to plant heirlooms, so we picked out three that sounded interesting. Heirlooms are basically “old school” veggies and fruits.  They’re the seeds that were planted and grown for decades, even centuries when farming was done by local people instead of the huge agri-business there is today.  As a result, unlike the majority of seeds you buy today in most stores, they are not genetically modified at all.  I’m a bit horrified at the thought that almost every seed packet you buy, in Lowe’s, Home Depot, Kmart, any big store – the seeds have been genetically modified.  Here are three we chose, but we’ll be planting lots more to fill our 150+ square feet!

Amish Deer Tongue Lettuce

Deer Tongue lettuce, also known as Matchless lettuce, dates back to the early 1740s, whereas the Amish Deer Tongue lettuce is variety from a later era–circa 1840.  The name, deer tongue, comes from its pointed leaves that are triangularly shaped with green straight edges.

Because of its heat tolerance, it is said to be less prone to bolting under high temperatures. The lettuce has a thin midrib, good texture and wonderful flavor that is pleasantly sharp. This plant is great for home gardeners as it is tolerant of different climates.

(From http://www.slowfoodusa.org/index.php/programs/ark_product_detail/amish_deer_tongue_lettuce/)

Moon and Stars Watermelon

A spectacular watermelon, with fine flavor, introduced by the Henderson seed company in 1926. The skin is deep green, speckled with hundreds of golden yellow stars and a few half-dollar sized moons. Even the foliage has yellow “stars”. The fruit is red. Melons are medium sized 25 pounds and slightly oblong.

From: http://www.burpee.com/product/vegetables/heirloom+vegetables/watermelon+moon+and+stars+%28heirloom%29+-+1+pkt.+%2830+seeds%29.do

Catskill Brussel Sprouts

I’m very excited about these! Not only are they heirloom, they’re local!

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Seed packets

We’re busy most of the weekends of April, but every weekend in May except one is free so far!  Yay for gardening!