Cantaloupe! I have to admit I was having fun trying to determine what was growing at the front of my garden from day to day. As mentioned in previous posts I was sure that it was cucumber at first. Then I thought it was honeydew melon and finally as the smooth skin began to crack, I finally knew what I was growing. Everything was growing, thriving, every square inch of my rectangular plot was producing something. I was enjoying the time spent in the community garden and the new friends I was making. People I knew from afar through professional interactions at the college became friends. Finding myself yelling over to my plot mate, two doors down, “Take some basil whenever you like for those tomatoes your growing. Would make a delicious caprese salad.” It was also particularly great getting gardening advice from the more seasoned veterans. It was about to come in handy.
As my cantaloupes started to grow bigger, I realized that I needed to give them some added support. I thought about what to do for days. I already had them growing upright, initially anticipating cucumbers. Then it came to me, some kind of mesh – it’s interesting and wonderful how nature works. The vines were throwing out these extra tendrils especially around the fruit, hoping for something to latch onto for support. So, I knew some kind of mesh or grid was needed. In my backyard I had some extra fencing material to keep our westie and mini schnauzer from getting at the wine grapes we inherited with the house from the Italian family we bought it from. I got out the wire cutters, a couple of wire twisty ties and I had a solution. Even though the vine was strong and nature was finding it’s own way. As the melons got larger, I eventually added some extra cradled support with a plastic bag tied into the trellis as well.
This summer in NYC was a hot one and I was getting a bumper crop of tomatoes. I made so many delicious meals and gave away to my friends and family. There is nothing to describe the difference of picking a cherry tomato straight of the plant and eating it moments later. It is deliciously sweet, vibrant and crisp in a way I never knew tomatoes could taste. Some of my neighbors were growing some more adventurous produce like eggplant, okra, zucchini, squash, swiss chard and even one guy filled his plot with a various assortment of hot peppers. Inspiring all new ideas for next year’s gardening season. Plans are already in talks about getting some space in the college green house to germinate some speciality plants like heirloom purple tomatoes for example. We are even trying to convince the college president to start a small bee hive on one of the remote building roofs (not going well, so far), as well more green space with a rooftop garden extension as well. This summer season was so successful, that next year there may have to be a lottery system for available plots, maybe this will be reason enough to add some of the aforementioned projects. I am already thinking about the possibility for some chickens!
As summer was winding down, one afternoon I stopped by during common hours. Oh yeah, a prerequisite for gardening privileges is that you donate some of your time to overall garden upkeep, composting and special projects. One afternoon I stopped by and asked what I could assist in completing and I was casually asked by the garden coordinator if I could get some sand from the work yard – about 25 yards away. “No biggie”, I thought and off I went with the wheel barrow. About 300+ pounds of sand later, sweating through my shirt and tie, we begun construction on a new garden patio to house our campus carpenter built compost bin system. After the sand was complete, the coordinator told me about some old red bricks that were saved from the old garden. I found them nicely stacked behind the chiller plant that houses the college’s HVAC system some hundred plus yards away. But, the sight after we had finished – another valuable skill added to my repertoire; brick laying was reward enough. Ally, the garden intern did just as much work as I did and on the third day of this project and as the last brick was laid, he and I sat back and felt like we had accomplished something great. That afternoon I sat and talked with some of my fellow gardeners about the wild black cherry tree that stood a few feet away from the new patio. One gardener had collected enough of the small cherries to make a couple bottles of jam. I tasted some straight from the tree, it reminded me of currants soaked in wine, with a slightly bitter finish. It would make a nice jam and would pair deliciously with a blue cheese I ate a few years before in County Cork, Ireland. A warm breeze caught my face again and I savored a few more minutes before the mosquitos finally ran me home.
NEXT POST: MY BOUNTY