Tuesday, August 30, 2011

An Update From Madison Square Unity Garden

This is an update from Madison Square Unity Garden
Unity Garden Leaders Rock !!
Sarah and Mitch -- I've missed you lately! But I should be in the garden much of Tuesday if you'd like to stop by. Have a few vacation days.

Things are going pretty well but it's hard to keep food available, people come daily and especially right now, at the end of the month.
Today, two women came and got the last of the collards that were big enough, and green tomatoes. Yesterday I left a big pile of green beans on the picnic table and they were gone before the day was out, the ladies and I found a few more handfuls today so they could take some ...
.. So I've planted more, and for cold weather. Here's what the garden looks like and what's in it now:
    Several of the neighbors tell me they enjoyed some corn -- I had an ear once or twice, though it was usually gone -- but that plot is replanted as peas now. They're just starting to break the soil. I also put a few rows of kale there but the seed was old, I'm waiting to see if it takes. (Cleared the old stalks and some other piled up stuff out this weekend, so most things look real clean ... But there's always a weed pile under the tree).
   Next plot: The green beans are still going pretty good so they stayed where they are, and they've done so well I'm doing more beans next year. Some insect damage to leaves, and wet/heat root spots, but they've always fought back of their own accord and beans have loved their space.
  Third: Okra's getting used as fast as it grows, and I planted six new yellow squash hills awhile back, they're doing really well, along with a few rows of carrots in that plot. Just planted alternating new rows of spinach over there too. It's a place that works for a bunch of things so far.
 Fourth: Picked all the lima beans on Sunday, still waiting on potatoes because they were way too small. Seriously thinking about moving some to tubs. That plot has a little spinach coming along in it too. I tucked some in the shade over there several weeks back, so they're slow but ...
Fifth: Cucumbers have suffered a little but continue to bear, I have one in the fridge and folks took the rest of them, everything on the vine is little right now but still flowering and growing. Several weeks ago I planted several new cucumber plants to fill in before it was too late to put them in, and they're growing OK. That's a very shady spot which has been both a curse and a blessing to the cukes at different times, I guess.
Sixth: This plot went in late, after Martin's shut down the greenhouse. Tomatoes, eggplant and peppers, all behind the others but they're bearing. Planted new mustard greens in between the rows over there (mustard greens did great, but were tired and seedy -- pulled out the old ones). Man walking by took a whole bag of mustards the other day, after I'd pulled up the old plants and taken them home and cleaned them for folks to use.
Seventh: Zucchini did really well, and I know there were some to take late last week -- they were gone over the weekend though.
The plants were hurt some during that really hot humid spell, and -- along with the cukes, pumpkins and others in that family -- got a bad case of powdery mildew. So I sprayed with a milk/baking soda treatment, cut the zucchini back and have watched their new growth come in pretty healthy. Still a little worried about them, there's a few plants with root damage, but there's plenty of flowers and new little zucchini growing fast.
    The acorn squash, sigh, people keep taking them when they're just WAY too small. I give up, I will never see an acorn squash really ready.
   But I gave up on being frustrated about that. If I'm there -- and at some point every day, I am -- then I tell people to wait, or this is ready, or whatever to help them learn. If I'm not, I figure if they need something that badly even though it's so small, I can't imagine how scary that hunger is.
   I often send people to you because it's such a large garden, or to others nearby like Zion. But Nettie, who stopped by today, tells me she went to McKinley and it was pretty cleaned out. She used to do the Mt. Carmel one at church, but she's not sure they have one again this year ...
Anyway, except for a few truly damaged plants, the zucchini has healed better than I thought it would, and cooler dry days have helped a lot.
Eighth: The collards are just hardy as they always are, and -- like everything else -- have always been harvested, even when a few times early on before the garden caught on, I did it myself and took them to one of the older neighbor ladies. She has been thrilled to have them each time. I also planted cabbage and cauliflower for the fall in that plot, since the new mustard greens went elsewhere and that space made more sense.
Ninth: Green peppers never finish growing before someone takes them. I've only ever had one myself all summer, and that was because it was damaged. (Usually if I take stuff it's because it's got a scar, or funny shape or soft spot or something.) They are doing OK too, I just weeded that plot and saw a few small peppers on the plant ... Guess no one else saw them so far ... I've also planted some onions in that space again.
Ten: Tomatoes, which have been a battle. Next year I want to use cages even though I don't like how they look, simply so it won't be such a fight to keep them up and keep them healthy ... But tomatoes are always flying out of the garden, usually green, people ask for that all the time. That was another thing I just got used to, at first I felt, like, can't they ripen? But if people love them green and eat them green, then that works for them.
That border needs weeding, and so do the streetside melons, but everything else is pretty cleaned up. And, obviously, pretty cleaned out too.
There's still a row of cornstalks near the northwest corner, but that's because they have black beans growing up them and some squash plants and pumpkins in the bed below them, so I've left them alone ... I need to spray those squash and the melon for mildew and hope to on Tuesday. There's also a small lettuce patch people are using near the strawberry/raspberry patch, and those plants are happy and have done pretty well.
And a patch in the back where there's small honeydew melon still growing because I don't think anyone knows they're there, under the tree ...
    Things haven't been perfect. One Sunday afternoon there was a SWAT standoff down the block on Madison Street! And I've had trouble with a volunteer or two who feel that it's not fair to share with other people who just take stuff without making any time or work contribution, who aren't effective about making others feel as welcome as they are. Sometimes I talk to new people -- this happened one night when neighbors John and Lisa came down for the first time, and took some corn -- and that may mean I'm not paying as much attention to a neighbor who comes routinely. One guy I swear was doing drug deals on his cell phone while hanging around, so I just stopped talking much and he drifted off after a few weeks.
When that stuff happens I explain the Unity philosophy -- but as always, I find that good people make the difference. When the lawn mower got stolen, Dave let me borrow his. Which was a good thing, because I hate the garden lawn not being cut and the appearance ever being unkept.
    Billy doesn't work in the garden, but stopped and gave me a drink one day because I looked hot ... I think it's important to talk about the plants and everything, but the people are always more important to me. I walk home in tears sometimes because the need is so overwhelming. The other morning it was a Latino guy who works for the Streets Department, I forget his name, he said used to be a migrant worker based in Brownsville Texas ... He mostly just wanted to talk but took some of the beans and I forget what all with him. Last week, as some nasty storms rolled in, it was two different ladies I'd never seen -- said they've come several times -- filling bags with food until the first raindrops fell ... So I asked them what they wanted, since I usually do ask people, I'm planting this or that, what do you want more of? They said cabbage, so. I planted it. But I think right now if you checked?
There's always green tomatoes, and whatever beans we missed ... There's some lettuce, and tiny cukes and melons that aren't ready yet ... There's a handful of collards ... But everything gets harvested and? Even the kids stop and get stuff when they get off the school bus now.
I feel blessed to be a part of this, and since I'm home Tuesday, if you guys want to stop by I should be around the garden or home. And remind me to get you recipes -- I just had a great green tomato gumbo for dinner tonight, and made an underripe melon stir-fry the other day ...

I've missed you!


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