Saturday was rainy and as I peered out the door of the hoop house I simply knew that our volunteers were going to stay snuggled in their beds. At best, I thought they might emerge and hit their schoolbooks, and as the time ticked past the appointed hour, my certainty that I had been stood up only grew. So you can imagine my delight at being proven wrong again when two cars slowly slid into parking spots near the garden and five UVA students walked through the rain into the garden. I beckoned them into our warm, dry hoop house and we spent two very lovely hours laughing, chatting, and continuing our native plant rock label planting. The results were quite lovely and, like all our new labels, should last for years to come.
By the way, our Madison House came out on Sunday and weeded several of the beds, which are looking quite well kept as we try to get in this last crop before frost. Monday’s low may dip into the high 30’s, so winter is well on the way.
We’ve been painting rocks in the garden. That might sound barmy, but they’ll make great, fun native plant labels. We might have gotten a little bit overexcited with some of our labeling (compost rock, for instance)….. but I don’t think so.
Here, Chris, Samip, Henry and Ella are doing some painting inside the hoop house on a bit of a wet day.
We are the grateful recipient of mulch from our Charlottesville tree wonders Bartlett Tree Experts. Every so often we’ll call them and they are always friendly, professional, and a huge pile of mulch shortly gets delivered to the garden. The mulch helps keep our operation in the garden going, proving walking paths for our raised beds, decomposing into soil, blocking weed growth, and generally helping us keep the place growing and beautiful.
You can find them at https://www.bartlett.com/
On Wednesday, Sept. 21st we participated in the 25th annual United Way Day of Caring. Megan Borishansky does a wonderful job coordinating the largest volunteer day in the greater Charlottesville area. This year, over 1,900 volunteers went out to hundreds of non-profits and schools, happily donating their time to our community needs. We had three groups choose to volunteer in the garden, including two teams from UVA and one from Westminster Canterbury. Two of the teams were returning from a few years ago and we thank them so much for choosing us AGAIN.
We had a wonderful time and a simply incredible amount of work was accomplished. Over 30 people came and spent the morning in the garden. Even now, two weeks later, I simply have to rub my eyes and take in the difference those 100 person hours made. Come to the garden sometime and see for yourself. Don’t forget, we’re always looking for community members who simply want to spend time volunteering in the garden.
This past Sunday was one of those picture perfect days in the garden. Under cloud streaked blue skies, a variety of volunteer worlds collided in hail fellowship. We had Ella and Mary Beth, community volunteers extraordinaire. Chris, PVCC employee, showed up to till, mow, and trim weeds (Saturday too). Hannah, who bridges the UVA and PVCC worlds, came in before her shift at work. Henry, Samip, Chris and Angela returned from last year’s UVA’s Madison House crew. My son Parker and I joined in the fun.
It must be understood that in the community garden we keep a journal in the shed that allows volunteers to write down what they’ve done on a visit, and many people have read each other’s notes but never actually met. So yesterday was one of those moments when people had the opportunity to put faces to names.
We have been a beneficiary of the volunteers through UVA’s Madison House for the past several years, as written about previously. Really, without their help the Charlottesville community schools and nonprofits would be able to offer so many fewer services. They do so much, contributing an incredible amount of person hours over the course of the year. While the United Way Day of Caring may be splashier as a huge one day volunteer event, Madison House students help out throughout the year, making a continuing impact.
This year the Madison House team will be lead by Henry Wykowski and Samip Patel. Both have experience working in the PVCC Community Garden and we are very exited to welcome them back. And though Madison House is still in the recruiting stage for this year’s volunteers, Henry and returning MH volunteer Dalma came back to the garden last Friday. They couldn’t wait to get back! We harvested squash and okra, plus weeded and planted a good chunk of the garden’s largest bed.
They’re a great team.
Project SERVE was in the garden last Friday and, as usual, this group rocked the house! Helping local service organizations while making acquaintences with other, new UVA students is the goal of this project and they do an incredible job. We’ve had years of being a Project SERVE site and they always work hard, make great conversation, and hopefully a few lasting friendships along the way. We cleared one of the eight raised beds of summer weeds and planted it full of two kinds of turnips, kale, and mustard greens.
Thanks to everyone who participated and have a wonderful fall semester. Our gate is always open to you.
This summer the garden has had some really terrific volunteers and I’d like to take some time to celebrate them here, for without our cadre of volunteers this garden wouldn’t exist at all. There have been so many great ones over the years, coming and going, lending their passion to a greater good. Being a community garden coordinator is funny thing. At our garden, we have volunteers note in a spiral bound notebook what they’ve done during their volunteer shift. Some of us never meet each other, but we’ve been reading and enjoying each other’s notes. From Alan, for instance, we get ruminations on time and the beauty of the sunset. Ella brings ideas aplenty, always looking out for ways to improve the garden. Lately she’s been thinking about ways to make the best use of the hoop house, or bringing peach or mulberry trees. Georgia plunks down her stool and weeds the beds thoroughly. Though my hours seldom intersect with hers, I always enjoy the bright, positive perspective she brings to the garden. Albina found us through a Biology professor and though heavily pregnant, tended her row of tomatoes. Congratulations on the recent addition to your family, Albina, and thanks for returning so quickly! Chris, our police chief, is also known around the garden as the guy who devotedly mows, trims, tills, and also manages to work one of the raised beds with his children. Mary Beth, a recent addition to the garden, has taken over not only the compost bins, but also worked with Ella to build a sifter to remove the mugwort plant – in addition to half a million other things. Most recently she and Ella organized a rock party.
What, you say?
Yes, complete with kids a’plenty, refreshments that included passionfruit juice from the garden and a professional illustrator! We painted rocks in bold colors and then painted some of our native plants on them, writing the plant names as clearly as possible. Then we preserved everything with a spray of clear coat. Those rocks now adorn our garden, labeling some of our native plants for all to see. It worked so well we can’t wait to do it again!
This is not nearly a complete list of volunteers, gentle reader, just a start. Andrea, Hannah… the list goes on and on. Come, visit, and see.
By the way, you can also friend us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pvcchorticulture/
I’d like to take a moment to call attention to our lovely heirloom tomato bed, thoughtfully tended by Horticulture and Environmental Club President Andrew Harriman. Heavily mulched, well pruned and tied, this bed has produced some beautiful tomatoes all summer long. Last summer Andrew tended a smaller section of this bed all on his own, but he branched out and really did some wonderful work. He also brought us native plants through his membership in the VA Native Plant Society, worked to monitor the temperature in our hoop house, and has done a number of other, unthanked tasks in the community garden over the last few years. Thank you for your hard work, Andrew!
Yesterday, more than 30 campers and counselors from Triple C Camp were in the garden. These were some of the older campers from 6th to 8th grade, many of whom had visited the garden last year and were happy to share what they knew. We harvested pounds of green beans for the food bank, examined the native plant border, found a snake and lots of insects, and walked all around the garden space talking about growing plants.
Exposing young people to gardening early is very important as it helps them develop a relationship with the plants that provide the basis for a healthy diet. Visiting the produce section in the grocery store with your children is good, getting them started preparing and cooking food for the family is good, and letting them learn from the ground up the process of a healthy, sustainable way to produce food is critical. Maybe they won’t put it all together at 12 years old, but each positive exposure helps in the development of a healthy diet.
We did some weeding in the tomato plant section and in one of the native plant beds. I was very impressed by the hard work of these youngsters, as it was a hot day and many of them hadn’t much experience pulling plants before. We accomplished quite a bit and the garden is looking very good at this point in the summer.