Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What about Gardening?

I live in the indescribably good and beautiful town of Greenbelt, Maryland. People who own small cooperative housing units here---part of a group known as Greenbelt Homes Incorporated, or GHI---are community minded, friendly, environmentally conscious, and original. A smaller group of Greenbelters own single family homes, mostly smallish brick houses built in the 1950s through 1970s.

A lot of Greenbelters, myself included, work at nearby NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Another segment of the Greenbelt population is active in the local arts scene. We have an amazingly talented group of potters, a local restaurant, the New Deal Cafe---which hosts arts displays and sales, our very own Greenbelt Arts Center, a dance studio, a brand new Yoga studio, and the list goes on and on.

So what better place, both literally and figuratively, to begin blogging about the interfaces of science and art that good Old Greenbelt?

Many Greenbelters are devoted to gardening. A spectacular array of trees, shrubs and flowers adorn the small front yards of many GHIs. For others like me, the allure of picking, preparing and serving garden-fresh delights through the warmer months is encouragement enough to cultivate a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs. I wonder what a "Greenbelt Gardener's Market" would be like. I'm confident the displays of homegrown goodness would exceed most people's expectations.

For Mother's Day 1999, my husband double dug me a large garden plot in our backyard. The yard itself is in partial sun, but certain spots of it get enough light to go for the gusto and grow tomatoes, cucumbers and the other sun-loving veggies. Here are a few highlights of the last several seasons:

Throughout the summer of 2000 it was so cool and rainy that not a single tomato ripened before September. Then they all turned red, burgandy, yellow and orange nearly at once. My father, who was in hospice care during those Fall months, really enjoyed the offerings of fresh tomato soup back then. The color of the soup depended on the variety of the tomatoes used.
(Choices ranged from traditional red Roma, to the more pink Brandywine, through golden and yellow varieties.)

On Christmas morning 2001 my son and I picked fresh sugar snap peas for our dinner that night. It had been a mild winter so far, and most of the Fall vegetables we'd planted that August made it all the way through to the new year.

We ate many a fresh salad from the garden in September 2003, after hurricane Isabel knocked out our power for the better part of four days.

During summer 2005 we had a few parties out on our patio, which adjoins the garden. Several expedition parties would break off throughout the evening to sample the strawberries and other goodies that could be picked and eaten right in the garden. A bit hit was the copious asparagus.

In the spring of 2006 a nest of baby bunnies snuggled under the impromptu cold frame we'd built using an old greenhouse shelfing frame and a clear plastic cover. They were safe from predators, and very cute.

In January 2007, just a few weeks ago and before the brutal cold spell, we were picking and enjoying last Fall's carrots, parsnips, mint, parsley and even some volunteer broccoli.

In general, we have been pretty successful with cooler-season veggies. It is not uncommon for us to have virtually a 4-season garden, as our last Fall crops overwinter through the generally fairly mild winters. If we plan it right, we're eating spinach salads from the garden in March as we're planning what to grow for the upcoming seasons.

Now if it weren't such backbreaking and continuous work!