By Sarah Lally Brown, Community Gardener, Resident Two-Slides Park Neighborhood
Did you know that our last spring frost is forecast with a 50% probability for April 22? For many years I’ve been going by the mythical rule that tomato plants need to have night protection until Mother’s Day. This year that is May 10. Pretty close! There’s a lot you can do before April though, if you want to have a vegetable garden this year. Were you thinking of trying out a community plot in our neighborhood? Now is the time to start planning. There are 130 active plots in our neighborhood. Applications for plots have been coming in since the first of the year; there may still be openings in February.
Would you like to try growing 20 pounds of carrots in 24 square feet? You can, if carrots are your thing. One of the plots near me is 50% strawberry plants. I prefer a mix of one-thirds tomatoes, one-thirds greens tented by tall beans, and the last third a mix of things that strike my fancy. Invigorated by a challenge? The Vista gardens reside in the glorious sunshine provided by a path laid clear for high-lines overhead. We trade reckless amounts of light for the unusual requirement of no metal plant supports. All of those fancy tomato cages you’ve seen? Nope. Let your skill run wild with PVC-pipe, bamboo stakes, and twine. Make something amazing. My bamboo structure was fantastic until the plants got too big and wrestled the whole thing to the ground…I’ve complained about this already. Better luck this year! I was cleaning out the garage last week and found the heads of seed garlic I meant to plant in November but forgot about. Let’s put those in the ground now and see what grows.
Sometimes it just happens. You put everything into it and invest in a growing cycle and at the end it’s a bust. My biggest disappointment last year was with potatoes. A friend offered to help me do spring tilling in the garden, no small feat, in exchange for a share in a potato tower. I built a brand new set of wooden squares and picked out seed potatoes and thought everything was in place. Throughout the summer the leaves grew higher and I stacked one after another frame on top and filled with dirt to hill the potatoes. It looked fantastic! At the end of the summer the boys were so excited to harvest “Jeff’s Potatoes” and we toppled the towers with gleeful hands to find….nothing. Well, barely nothing. I think there were 12 small potatoes growing in the entire hill. I had read up on the process and knew that we weren’t under- or over-fertilizing, we were properly watering, everything should have been great. Yet the spud bonanza did not materialize. I rinsed each wooden frame and stacked them up and next year we will try again. Perhaps with some Russian Fingerlings or a Yukon Gold. Maybe it was the potato type? Who knows?
The seed and plant catalogs are coming. We’ve passed the dark days of winter and things are on the upswing. What are you looking forward to planting this year? What is on your garden menu?