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. . .From the Garden

Our first growing season has come and, for most of us, gone. This seems like a good time to do a balance sheet of our achievements and failures, collective and individual.

First and foremost, whatever we grew we owe to the work and persistence of Hugh Davis and Shelley Wheeler-Carriero and to the volunteers, who never got so much as a turnip in return for their hard work and good will. Thanks most notably to Rob Dietter, our intrepid back-hoer; the Montowese Volunteer Fire Department who twice filled the tank with water; and Gerard Adinolfi of G & H Equipment for churning and turning the soil and leaves.

A year ago, we put up the fence that successfully protected our virgin crops from vermin and animals. In the course of the summer, a troupe of turkeys, two brazen coyotes and a very sweet little bunny were seen near, and in the last case, in the garden. In midsummer, we noticed that some ripened tomatoes had been plucked from their vines; each had a bite taken out and was cast on the ground. Turkeys or raccoons were thought to be the culprits. The tomato assault did not last very long.

Some of us had great success with tomatoes, others less so. At the farmers' market in New Haven growers complained that too much rain had taken a toll on their tomatoes, but Hugh Davis managed to raise a bumper crop, as well as eggplants, which he shared with the Connecticut Food Bank. Yours truly barely managed to eke out a handful of heirloom and trendily-named species throughout the season.

Eggplants seem to have fared well. Squash-with the exception of butternut-were a disaster for almost everyone. The annual flowers, marigolds and zinnias, were beautiful, but best of all were the sunflowers. Two perennial herbs, lavender and thyme, did well this summer and will, it is hoped, return again next year. Perhaps we should plan to have a communal plot for perennials?

Broccoli turned out to be a high yielding plant. Shelley suggested there were several methods for removing the thousands of little worms that conceal themselves in broccoli heads. There's the plunging in boiling water and vinegar method and the bath of very salty water. Anyone with better ways to kill those insidious little caterpillars? A collective disappointment was the pumpkin crop. Bob Fiondella had the very clever idea to plant pumpkins in the unclaimed portion of the garden. In October we would celebrate the harvest and Halloween with a hunt in our over-flowing pumpkin patch. Alas, the best laid plantsÉ not a single one ever produced even a pea-sized pumpkin. The consensus is that every seed in the four packets we planted were male seeds. For some reason, some veteran gardeners argued, we didn't have a female pumpkin seed in the bunch. Any better ideas?

We collectively gave 40 lbs of produce to the CT. Food Bank. Crops included-in addition to Hugh's tomatoes, eggplants and peppers as well as butternut squash, broccoli and string beans.

We trust everyone kept to a strict organic code. We should get together to swap stories about how we managed, or maybe just to meet each other. In the early spring, we hope to get Bill Duessing of the Northeast Organic Farmer's Association (NOFA) to offer us words of wisdom and tips of the trade. We'll try to pick a day in March and let you know as soon as the date and place are set.

Meanwhile, we need more gardeners. If you live in a condo or have little space or sun in your yard, our full-sun 10' x 12' garden plots might be just right for you. Those of us who are re-upping for next season can keep their plots from this year (and of course pay the $20/plot rental fee). We have decided we should all be responsible for amending and weeding our own individual plots, rather than bulldozing the whole garden. The town of North Haven is giving us leaves again, and we are hoping that we can get someone to rototill the half of the garden we didn't use this year. If you had a good experience this year or think that you might have one next year, please ask all your friends and relatives to join us. Send all your complaints and suggestions, as well as your intentions to garden again next year to Dorie Baker doriebb@hotmail.com, or Hugh Davis at hjdavis@comcast.net.

See you all in the spring, and have a happy, safe winter. It is supposed to be a mild one.

Dorie Baker

The Hermitage View
Issue 4, Fall 2006

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