Jul 29, 2014
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Community Gardeners Beginning to Harvest

How are the gardens at the new Community Gardens growing? Quite well, by and large, though rain would be very, very welcome. I would say we're all finding it very satisfying to start out with dirt and end up with dinner.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?

—Nursery rhyme

I think the answer, out at the new Community Gardens at Prairie Green at Peck and Bricher roads, is a resounding “quite well, thank you!”

Everywhere you look across the expanse of 124 garden plots, each 20 by 30 feet, plants are growing taller and bearing fruit (and vegetables). Of the total plots, 12 are “organic-only” plots.

The garden area is a partnership  between the Geneva Park District, city of Geneva and the Forest Preserve District of Kane County. The plots are available from the third week of April through Oct. 31.

“Kasie and I have had great luck for being such novices,” said Terri Pheanis of the plot she shares with her daughter. Thus far they’ve enjoyed lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, radishes and onions. They have tomatoes and peppers coming in and cucumbers, peas and beans are growing nicely. 

“We planted a ‘little of a lot’ to see what we could grow and like, so we have been learning a lot,” she said. 

Cathy Deutschendorf was headed out to work on the plot she shares with Kelly Bavery. They were planning to add some mulch, obtained for free from the big city bins where shredded tree limbs are collected.

“This is all more work than we anticipated but we love it,” she said, a sentiment shared by many, many other gardeners. “The time spent with friends, the exercise, the harvest (we have harvested broccoli and a banana pepper and loved them all...)” 

“I’m loving it,” said gardener Peggy Condon. She and a St. Charles friend formerly volunteered together, but had had to drop that activity. To make sure they continued regular contact, they decided to garden together. They’re enjoying the experience, and chatting with fellow gardeners. One husband-and-wife duo, she said, has several plots and will donate much of their impressive tomato harvest to a residential center for senior citizens.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had a number of people inquire after the garden I till with friend and workout buddy Nancy Krueger. It’s doing very well. Even the melon plant I stepped on, and then attempted to replant, is still alive. We’ve lost the bok choy, and some of our seeds failed to sprout, but overall, nearly everything took. We’ve harvested lettuce, spinach, a bit of broccoli, a few radishes and one lone zucchini, but big payoffs are nearing. I’ve joked for years that I’m one of the only people in America who cannot grow zucchini; Nancy obviously has the green thumb because we’re soon to be inundated. There is something incredible, and incredibly satisfying, about starting out with dirt and ending up with dinner. 

What did we plant? Tons of stuff, including three or so varieties of lettuce, spinach, two kinds of squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, tomatoes, cucumbers, peas, lima beans (I’m one of the few people in the world who LOVES lima beans), pole beans, eggplant, broccoli, radishes, carrots, herbs, onions, zucchini and a few other things. Like the Pheanises, we tried a “little of a lot,” to experiment and to see what we liked, what would grow and what failed. 

Every single gardener out there would bemoan the lack of rain, even while praising the park district for including water spigots every six plots. The dearth of rain has meant most of us are there daily, or at least every other day. With hoses strictly forbidden, we’re hauling water by the gallon, by the watering can and by the five-gallon bucket. A friend thoughtfully provided Nancy and me with a little red wagon, which has made delivery easier. 

“I, too, am enjoying pleasure of following the water path trench I’ve carved in the grass, hauling five-gallon buckets from the wellhead to the garden, but it’s worth the effort,” said Paul Conterato. “Lettuce, spinach, radishes, our first zucchini have all been harvested. In a few days my first little tomato and kohlrabi will also be coming home.

“And who ever thought compost and manure would be such a hot topic?”

Not me, that’s for sure. I’m not alone, either.

Pheanis enjoys the peace of the place when watering. She’s usually there at sunset and loves the beautiful view toward the west. And the camaraderie is great, too, pointed out Conterato. “Have you noticed most people wave as they’re coming or going? They’ll walk around, visit you while you’re there (but don’t offer to pull weeds) and ask what you’re growing and how things are doing.”

Kane County master gardeners prowl the acreage from 10 a.m. to noon each Saturday, ready to offer information and advice, and to answer questions. 

“People are already planning what they want to change next year after learning what we all have this season: different crops, drop this one, add that one,” Conterato said.

In addition, many people who were a little leery of gardening such big plots this summer are gung ho to give it a go next year. 

Nancy and I will be back, as will many of our gardening neighbors. 

And one other advantage to the garden plot? I’ve learned to spell broccoli and zucchini ...

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