Pandemic Summer Gardening

Special Edition

By Amy Nicole Tangel

The summer of 2020 has seemingly become a season of gardening for many people as we seek ways to pass the time at home and make the most of it.  People who have always had a garden have grown bigger ones this year and people who have never gardened are trying it for the first time. For myself, I have always been a gardener, but this summer, I decided to go all-in and maximize my time at home by expanding my garden and learning from fellow gardeners to guide me along.

In years past, I grew my vegetables in pots out of necessity, and I was always left feeling like I was missing out by not having my garden in the ground. Having dogs and limited yard space was always my reason for not planting in the ground, but it really came down to putting the time in to and committing to the work it requires.

This past spring, I began thinking about exactly what I wanted to plant and how.  Throughout many seasons, I observed my backyard space and took note of exactly what area received the best sun for the longest periods of time by how the garden grew in size and what it produced.  I came to learn over time what shadows were cast on what objects when, how much shade I had in the morning to get things done while it was cool and how much light I had left before it was too dark to work anymore.

I decided I was going to keep it simple this year and really focus on just a few vegetables at a time to maximize the space I had, so I planted what I would eat the most of; zucchini, pickling cucumbers, snap peas, cherry and beefsteak tomatoes.  I started most of them inside from seed and brought a couple starter plants back home from a farm in upstate NY.

The time I have spent working on my garden this summer, has been different than years past as it has provided a peaceful focus which has been beneficial to me in countless ways.  The passion for my garden extended to other areas of my backyard as well, and my hibiscus is full of beautiful flowers and there are bees and butterflies everywhere.  Not only has it provided an overflowing of vegetables, the time dedicated to my garden has given me an inner-peace and an overall healthier living this summer.

Fresh salads, sautéed vegetables and zucchini bread have been plentiful, and as we near the end of August my cherry tomatoes and zucchini do not seem to be slowing down yet.  I often share what I harvest with friends and try to spread the goodness around any chance I can.  Being able to provide something good for others and having a garden master to mentor me along the way has been the icing on the cake.

I have been gardening since I can remember and learned from my parents and my grandfather, who was an avid gardener, and had a very full garden for years.  I have so many fond memories of pulling carrots and watching the pumpkins grow in his garden.  There was always a big harvest in the fall, and I would always be amazed at how many different vegetables he would jar and store in the basement.  On my mother’s side we have a family tradition of making pickles and we would gather every summer to make pickles galore.

Over the last decade, I have lost my mother and both of my grandmothers; leaving me with a huge void of traditions I knew and loved.  I feel close to my mother when I garden and it is a life-long gift she passed down to me, so I have tried to make the most of it in spite of the loss.

Last spring, I ran into a local musician at a charity event who I had written about years prior, and he shared with me he had recently made a life change to healthier living by creating an organic garden after having gastric bypass surgery.  A light bulb instantly went off, and I told Karl “BD” Reamer, I wanted to write about his garden in attempt to learn more and help his mission of community involvement.  His garden is an open door, and he welcomes members of the community to come help harvest and to take home fresh vegetables.

As a sign of the times this summer, the barter system has become very popular this season with Karl’s garden and people have been very creative in what they trade.  He said he is a member of various garden community pages on Facebook and through other people sharing they trade and learn from each other.  People have traded homemade pizzas, pies, bread, eggs and even wheel barrels.  He said people suggest to him all the time to sell his vegetables, but he does not want to. 

“I don’t exchange money.  I just don’t like doing that,” he said.

This summer I am grateful for having the time to build my garden and learn from Karl’s.  He is outside from dusk until dawn and his calendar says he is in the garden from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.  He has a shed with an outdoor kitchen area, so you are likely to enjoy a farm to fork meal or snack when you stop by.  I recently helped out at his farm and harvested mounds of wax beans.  In return, I received many lessons as always, and a delicious lunch from the garden.

As the summer gardening season begins to wind down, I am already searching for new fall harvests.  I am going to begin with radishes by planting seeds directly outside and harvesting them in about 30 days.  With seeds from Karl and extra woodchips from his farm to help keep moisture in the ground, I am ready to start preparing outside for fall.

Although I don’t want to rush what’s left of summer, I am excited for pumpkins, apples and cool nights.  Planting mums and changing leaf colors is not far away.  Until then, I will enjoy the last few weeks of my garden and be thankful for all it has provided.

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