2020 Letter to Members

Hello Gardeners and Friends of PPCG,

Let’s first acknowledge the challenges we faced at PPCG: 2020 was the growing season none of us signed up for, from seed shortages and store closures to limited gardening supplies and plant stock. We were locked out of our shed with all of its tools and hoses and couldn’t hold our work parties and annual harvest picnic. Our new beekeeper had to cancel his hive. And then there were periods of record heat plus drought conditions.

For some of us it wasn’t worth the risk and hassle, on top of everything else we were coping with in a pandemic year. Five members took the option to keep their plots reserved for 2021. Others couldn’t wait to get started and chafed at the fact that we were cut out of our spring growing season.

We thank all of you, whether you gardened this year or decided to wait for better circumstances. We also thank Director McGrath from the health department, Councilor Donna Connors, and Mayor Kokoros for helping us get our safety rules in place for the summer growing season.

If you held off in 2020, we hope to see you again soon; your gardens were maintained and will be ready for you in 2021. For those of you who were able to make our garden space work, we appreciate all of your careful attention to our rules with regard to wearing face masks, cleaning hose connections, and keeping a safe physical distance from each other. It was good to see you and share garden talk. Thanks to everyone for keeping an eye out on each others’ gardens and helping with watering as needed. It wasn’t a typical year, but all of this is what ‘community’ meant to us in 2020.

And how about all of the good crops that came out of our plots? We had a lot of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, beans, garlic, kale, and flowers, to name a few. Cucumbers did well in the beginning of the summer, and then many vines collapsed from disease. Some other more unusual crops for PPCG growers included pumpkins and other types of squash, pink celery, corn, winter radish, and asparagus. It’s always great to see how new crops and varieties fare in our space, because even if they don’t quite make it, we always learn more about how to try again in another season. It looked like we were close to getting some corn this year, for example, but then the deer figured out how to bust down fences. They were thirsty beasts this summer.

Speaking of fencing, we’re having ongoing problems with the use of fine mesh netting, which easily gets caught in the mower and isn’t safe for wildlife. Gary rescued a few tangled birds this summer alone. Moving forward, we ask that you avoid using fine netting. We know it’s a big expense and effort to install sturdier barriers, so if you have any challenge getting set up in 2021, let us know. We are allocating some of our extra funds to the cause, and along with the materials we’ve accumulated in previous years, hope to be able to eventually get all of our plots protected with safe fencing (for gardeners who want it).

During the October snowstorm (!) a tree came down on the western side of the garden, near the shed and pergola. Fortunately there was no damage to structures or plots. Thank you to Gary and the Parks Department for managing the clean up.

In addition, Gary trimmed branches along the edges of our gardening space. Since we first started gardening in Perkins Park, the trees are all eleven years taller and starting to make a significant shade impact, especially in the plots along the southern edge in the fall. We will try to figure out how to get some of those trees trimmed (with the town’s approval) so that we can continue to garden without making a negative impact on the wild spaces. Other chores to check off in 2021 include repairs to the compost bins, re-installation of the buried hose from the shed to mid garden, and assessment and care of our herb/flower garden.

Also in 2021, everyone gets a fresh start, so if you were unable to keep your plot going last season and want to give it another try this year, you are welcome to come back.

Because we do not know the restrictions we will be facing in the upcoming growing season, we are waiting to mail our 2021 applications. In the meantime, you can help our planning process by letting us know (1) if you would like to return or (2) if you are a ‘maybe,’ what general circumstances may impact your decision.

Wishing everyone a better 2021,

Suzanne Brothers and Gary Roden, Co-Managers PPCG

What’s Growing On at PPCG? July and August 2020

With meteorological summer already behind us, our warm weather growing season is winding down. In spite of the usual pressures from disease and insects, plus a few weeks of very hot dry weather and some smart deer who’ve figured out how to breach our fences, many of us had good yields of cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, garlic, and flowers this season. If you still have gardening steam, you’ve got time to plant some fall crops. And let’s not forget about the winter squash, corn, and other stragglers pushing for maturity before frost (typically around October 15). See below for more info, and enjoy a look at what we’ve grown!

July and August 2020

For More Information– Gardening into September & October

How to grow garlic— our garlic-growing workshop presented by Jon Belber of Holly Hill Farm

How to get the most from your plants at season’s end— topping off tomatoes, pruning squash vines, and saving seeds.

Planting a fall vegetable garden–how to choose the right crops, get the timing right, and more

Easy, Low-Cost & Safe Gardening

I’m writing this post with the hope that we will get to plant in Perkins Park Community Garden this summer. It’s still a big IF, and even if we can open, we will likely face significant restrictions and limitations. So I’m taking a few guesses and posting some ideas to help with planning our plots. Or maybe at home you have a patch of sun and space for a 5-gallon container or window box.

Keep it simple. Now is not the time to design complicated garden layouts, especially if this gardening season is your first try. Pick one to a few things you like to grow or eat.  It’s okay to leave open space, but plan to mulch those areas if you can (see below). And know that even if we open up, there’s always a chance we could get shut down again if the pandemic worsens.

Try No- or Low-Dig Gardening. If ever there was a good year to try a more tools-off approach to garden prep, this may be the one, when our tool shed may not be open. See here and here  for the rationale and potential benefits of no-dig gardening.

Mulch.  Last fall, many of us mulched our gardens with leaves and other material, which can be brushed into the areas among new plantings (keep young plant stems clear of mulch). But if your plot is bare, laying down some mulch will save some work later by (1) blocking weeds, (2) improving water retention, (3) building more fertile soil and (4) protecting plants from soil-born diseases. If you use leaves from PPCG and have a tool like a hoe or rake, chop them up a bit so that they don’t form a dense mat that blocks water. Or use corrugated cardboard or brown paper lawn refuse bags/grocery bags, or multiple layers of newspaper. Weight it all down with rocks, jugs of water, etc.. Added bonus: worms love this stuff.

Be Water Wise. We may need to haul our water to the garden, or we may not be able to share hoses and watering cans, so just in case, start saving up those gallon jugs, beverage containers, etc. with caps. (This is one other good reason to keep your garden plan very simple.) Also, once your plants are established, work on watering deeply and less frequently to encourage the development of deep roots and more drought-tolerant plants. See here for more ideas and lists of drought-tolerant plants. And here’s another post on preparing for drought.

Improvise and use what you have and limit your trips out to the stores.

  • Kitchen implements such as serving spoons and forks can work as garden hand tools. Paper grocery bags and newspaper work great as mulch. Milk jugs can act as mini greenhouses or pest protection (just be sure to vent them). Use scraps of old textiles for tying plants. Scavenge fallen branches to support tomatoes and create garden trellises.
  • More garden hacks here and here.
  • Ordering of seeds is delayed at many sites. How about that old packet of seeds? Are they still good? Use them if you can. Test a few seeds out to see if they sprout using this method. DSC_3375See here, this Black-Eyed Susan vine (front, middle) planted on April 1, now nearly 1.5 months later? It sprouted, but lost its oomph. Poor girl. But many other seeds will do just fine from year to year. More seed-starting tips here.

No-crowd shopping.

  • The Lowe’s parking lot in Weymouth has been almost as crowded as Pond Meadow Park. (Not really, but PMP is unruly these days.) If you must go out and buy anything, try some outdoor garden centers that may be less crowded, such as Christopher’s Garden Shop and Farm Stand (Facebook link) in Weymouth or the Artery Garden Center at 625 Southern Artery in Quincy (in Goodwill parking lot).
  • Non-profit organizations that rely on annual seedling sales are being responsive to the pandemic and are coming up with safe shopping alternatives. See Marshfield, City Natives, and Holy Hill Farm. Stay tuned for Brookwood Farm, which is evaluating its inventory.
  • Does your grocery store or other essential shopping stop sell seeds? A few weeks ago, Kam Man had seed displays filled with a nice selection of Asian greens and other veggies not typically found in the Burpee racks at Home Depot.

Low-fuss planting.

  • It can be hard to start plants from seed at the garden. They need extra watering care until they germinate and as seedlings. There may be pest pressure. Or if we get a big rainstorm, your seeds/seedlings may be washed away. Instead, start seedlings at home for transplant or purchase plants that are ready to be planted out in the garden.
  • Look for F1 or hybrid varieties that are more resistant to diseases than heirloom varieties.
  • Look for quick-maturing varieties. New Girl tomato, for example, matures in 62 days, whereas Grand Marshall takes 78 days. That’s a big difference. (Be aware, too, that in late summer, shade on the southern edge of PPCG grows long and will lengthen your ‘days to maturity.’)
  • Look for easy-to-grow crops. I like this article from High Mowing Seeds, which includes a planting schedule example. One note: zucchini isn’t impossible to grow at PPCG, but we do have some pressure from the dreaded squash vine borer.

It’s almost never too late. Even though we are coming upon the time when we could be planting our second succession of crops (warm-weather crops such as tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers, and peppers), there’s still plenty of time ahead for a third “slot” for planting (quick-growing warm-weather crops and cool weather fall crops).

Hope to see you soon!