Thursday, May 26, 2011

Plot Spotlight: Ben and Sarah's Plot H

Many a plot owner and stranger alike have marveled at our community garden's Plot H. The bed is exploding with standard garden fare; herbs, leafy greens, vegetables, root crops and a few more unusual elements, like plastic water bottles. For our first Plot Owner Spotlight, Ben and Sarah graciously spilled the (green) beans and confided their gardening secrets, dreams, and demons (cabbage maggots, of course).

Ben and Sarah may say they are garden “newbies,” but both have had outside experience. Sarah is an avid rose gardener, a pursuit whose difficulty prepared her for the commitment a productive food plot requires. Ben's mother has casually gardened at her home in Florida as long as he can remember, growing exotics like dead man's fingers and bananas. Their signature upturned liter bottles of water are actually a trick taken from Ben's mom. She wanted to improvise an alternative to the trendy “aqua globe” to water her plants in the summer's heat. An upside down bottle filled with water allowed the soil to absorb the water it needed close to the root system.

Perhaps the pair's influences explain their garden's unique style, which could be explained as at once whimsical and utilitarian. Every inch of space is meticulously planted with the spacing, nutrient, and pest prevention needs of each plant considered. Ben and Sarah follow a master plan they designed months before the growing season that allows for crop rotation and companion planting and keep a detailed techie garden notebook (on Ben's phone) so they can review and plan for the next year.

At the same time, the plot is undeniably beautiful. From a distance the rainbow chard provides a shriek of color against the jeweled emeralds and jades of leafy greens, broccoli, lettuces, and nightshade leaves. Heirloom vegetable varieties are sought out for both their flavor and stunning additions of color and texture. Globes of water are suspended, seemingly in thin air, throughout the plot and a wispy border of herbs and sleek onion tops edge in the perimeter.

As vegans, Ben and Sarah are as careful with their plot inputs as they are with their diets. Their garden is organic and they try to avoid soil amendments that are made from animal meat, like fertilizers containing blood or bone meal. They mentioned poor soil fertility, a common problem in beginning urban gardens, as an issue in their plot and amended their soil with worm tea and ZOOM! Organic Garden Food. Ben and Sarah are finalizing their planting plan for fall as their summer crops go in and are hoping to build a cold frame and start more of their vegetables from seed. The strengthened connection they now feel to their food is not going to be easy to let go. They plan to plant through the winter in hopes of a year round harvest, we hope they succeed!

Want a plot like theirs? We are hoping to stock the shed with “The Vegetable Gardener's Bible” and Neem Oil, their garden manual and pesticide of choice, but their daily diligence in watering, pruning, and picking off pests is up to you!