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Community Garden Late-August Report

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Greenbelt Community Garden
Chris and Liz Kleemeier in their Greenbelt Community Garden plot.

Early this summer I posted the photo above in a story for the Behnkes Nursery blog, but this plot looks much fuller now.  In fact, all the plots are looking good, and according to the gardeners there, it’s been a surprisingly good year, despite the heat and drought.  That’s because, as I was told, droughts can be responded to – just add water – while too much rain causes certain death by root rot.

What’s done particularly well this year in Greenbelt’s three community gardens are tomatoes, cucumbers (early in the summer), and eggplants.  The heat did halt bean production by mid-summer, though pole beans were fine.  Sorry to say, young groundhogs are reported to have climbed over plot fences to grab pumpkins and winter squash, the older groundhogs being too fat to make the climb.  And some disease was noted – Southern blight on some peppers, and early blight on tomatoes is kicking in about now, according to one gardener.

But hey, that’s gardening – winning some, losing some, and learning and adjusting with every failure.

Me and My Semi-Plot

I’ll be going to the Hamilton Community Garden regularly from now through the end of the season because – good news! – I’ve been offered part of a plot.  While chatting with Joe Gareri and Holly Wheeler at a block party I learned that they not only garden there but aren’t using their whole plot this year, so they offered to let me use a row or two – just enough room for me to grow some fall crops.  So far I’ve only found lettuce at Behnkes, though I’m told more collards will be arriving soon, but whatever! I’m excited to just be there, growing anything, and taking a first stab at a watering system, the lack of a water source being a challenge that all gardeners there face and that only the serious ones stick around to overcome.  What with the elaborate barrel, tarp and siphoning systems needed to overcome that obstacle, I think it’s fair to conclude that gardening here isn’t for dilettantes.

The Great Shade Problem

An even greater challenge to gardening in a growing percentage of the plots here is shade – something that simply can’t be overcome.  (I’m reminded of what veg-gardening expert Carol Allen said in answer to a question from a Behnkes customer during one of her free seminars there.  The question:  What constitutes full sun?  Her answer: “From horizon to horizon.”)


Greenbelt Community Garden
Trees looming over Henry’s Hollow.

Seems that over the decades trees have been allowed to have their way along the edges of all three community gardens, so that today many of the plots have more like half-day sun, which just won’t do for fruiting vegetables like tomatoes and eggplants.  This problem was recently addressed by the City Council, which in the end agreed to have old maps and photos consulted and the original boundaries of the gardens restored.  Meaning that some trees will be removed and in the future, volunteer trees not allowed to get tall.

Yep, the world of gardening has its inherent conflicts – like the love of trees versus the love of sunshine.  That’s why there are plenty of topics to cover on the national team blog GardenRant that I’m part of, much to the surprise of my nongardening friends, who always ask what possible things there could be to rant about in gardening.  Ha!

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com.

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