Capital City Organic Gardeners Take a Tour of Concord Community Gardens

Area gardeners enjoyed an informative tour of several plots at the Concord Community Gardens at the July 21 monthly meeting and program of the Capital Area Organic Gardeners (CCOG). A couple of dozen curious people, most with notebooks and/or cameras in hand, heard stories of garden experiments, successes and challenges, before dark clouds, lightning and a threatening storm brought an early end to the evening. The tour was continued the following week on July 28 under very pleasant conditions.

New Community Garden Kiosk

CCOG President Scott Morrison led the tour, which started at the community garden’s new message kiosk, a CCOG project completed earlier this spring to encourage sharing of information among the community gardeners.

Karen and her garden.

Neat as a pin!

First up was Karen Shields, showing off her very tidy and well-weeded raised bed vegetable garden, which she says has not experienced too many pests this year. “Keep your plants strong, and give them plenty of water, and they can withstand anything,” advises Karen. She, like many others at the community garden, hauls her water from home in garden jugs.

The "Three Sisters" in Scott's garden.

The next stop was Scott Morrison’s garden, the site of a few experiments, including a wheat and oat plot, multiple beds of “three sisters” plantings (beans, corn and squash), as well as the use of clover growing in rows. He mows the clover and uses the clippings as mulch. “It’s always an experiment, and it’s fun,” says Scott. “I learn something; I write it down, and I do it differently the next year.” Scott practices permaculture techniques and has managed his garden with very little extra water during the recent dry spell.

Steve's garden.

Bees love the borage!

Steve Abbott’s garden is a garden that not only encourages volunteers, but also is home to several experiments. Steve left a large patch of volunteer borage in place to encourage pollinators. In full bloom at the time of the tour, it buzzed with activity. Steve is composting comfrey along the edge of his pumpkins. “My pumpkins just figured out they were growing next to a compost heap, and they’re really taking off,” he says. Like other gardeners at the community gardens, Steve has made a commitment to building his soil. “I haven’t rototilled in five years. I’m seeing better soil, more worms and even better weeds!”

Lorna's garden. The much needed rain is moving in!

Last on the tour, before lightning, wind and rain sent the group scurrying for their cars, was Lorna Austin’s garden. Lorna, an apartment dweller, takes advantage of her garden to grow flowers as well as vegetables, and many were in full bloom. Lorna also works hard at organic soil management practices. “I practice no tilling, and I feel like this year, it’s really paying off,” she says. “I’m not seeing very many bugs, and check out this basil. The variety is ‘mammoth.’ I’ve been making pesto like crazy and it just keeps on producing.”
(At this point, the tour ended for the night. We resumed the tour the following week starting where we left off at Lorna Austin’s garden.)

The hot weather veggies love the IRT plastic sheeting.

Lorna wanted to show us the IRT plastic sheeting she bought at Fedco. “It’s inexpensive and the hot weather vegetables like the basil, peppers and eggplant have been loving it. I’ll definitely use it again.” said Lorna.

Flowers and veggies in Lorna's garden. A perfect match.

The next stop was Tom Poirier’s garden next to Lorna’s. Tom has uses raised bed boxes to keep his garden under control. He mulches the paths to keep the weeds down so he can focus his energy on the boxes. He dug down about two feet and amended the soil in each box. After planting, he put corrugated plastic tubes around each seedling. “They help focus the water down around the seedling’s roots when I water. I’m able to water right into the tube.” said Tom.  A handy tip for those who have to water by hand! Tom also sang the praises of using King Neptune’s Fish Emulsion to fertilize his plants every two weeks. He has seen an enormous difference in the health of his plants this year. Like Steve, he is also utilizing the comfrey and borage in the gardens to nurture his compost pile.

Tom also mulches well inside his bozes. Note the plastic tubing around the tomato plant.

Tom's garden.

We moved onto Mary Malan’s garden just down the road a bit. Mary started out religiously following the Square Foot gardening method. Over the years, she has relaxed a bit and now plants according to her intuition. She favors 3′ x 6′ plots. “They are a good size to manage and a row cover fits over them quite nicely.” says Mary. She recommends using row covers early in the season to nurture and protect young seedlings and freshly seeded beds. “They love the heat!”. A trick Mary uses to conserve water is to plant seedlings in a bowl or depression rather then hilling them up. She can then focus her watering very precisely around the plant. Even so, she has spent most of this dry summer hauling water into her garden.

Companion planting and interplanting flowers makes Mary's garden especially beautiful!

Mary lets the amaranth self seed. Isn't it beautiful?

It looks like this watermelon is loving the heat.

Our final stop was at Diana Talbot’s beautifully planned sunburst garden. Diana is an artist and master gardener and it shows! Her garden reminded us of a formal english garden. To create the paths, she dug down and mulched them with straw. To create the edging, she left some of the grass grow. A beautiful detail. We were sorry that Diana was not able attend the tour but we were all inspired by her creation.

Diana's beautifully designed garden!

The edges are outlined with carfully manicured grass. A lovely detail.

A Georgia O'Keefe flower! A perfect flower to spot in an artist's garden.

Thank you to everyone who offered tours of their gardens. You are all an inspiration!

Sunset

Thank you also to Lisa Aquizap for creating a garden scavenger hunt for the children and to Eleanor Baron who took photos and wrote up the copy for the first portion of the tour. It was very much appreciated!

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