Rock labels

Every year we make labels so that we can continue learning about what the plants look like in every stage of development. After all, a young sprout with it’s first two leaves looks an awful lot like a lot of other young sprouts. Or maybe we make them because it will help us remember later what we planted and less for other people. Perhaps it’s the joy inherent in the act of making something both beautiful and functional. Whatever the reason, every single season we gather to make more labels becomes a laughter filled occasion. Each label contains a picture of the plant, the Latin name, common name and usually, the name of the person who painted the rock. That way we know later who to remember and thank for the work they did that remains for future gardeners. Enjoy a few pictures from yesterday’s labor. One of them, Nate, you will note is handling his kale harvest and not a rock but since I like Nate a good deal and the picture I included it anyway.

United Way Thomas Jefferson Area Day of Caring

I look forward to this day every year. It’s the largest volunteer day of the year and a tremendous amount of work gets done in our local nonprofits and schools thanks to our local United Way office and this project. You can find more information about it here.

Sun Tribe Solar came back to the community garden to volunteer again for the second time in just a few months. I’m so impressed with just how fun and hardworking this group is. You can find out more information from their website.

And PVCC employees volunteered too! Thanks to Kit Decker, Corinne Faris, Ben Copeland, Kendra Powell, Karen Grunow, and Andrew Renshaw. And Becky Parkhill for coordinating and President Frank Friedman for his constant support of this day.

August update

I am pleased to report that the PVCC Community Garden has stayed open throughout the spring and summer and continued growing food for donation to local agencies. Our volunteers (there are no paid staff) have worked through a very hot summer, managed the coronavirus fears, kept masked and socially distanced, and done some magnificent work. All eight raised beds are in production and some of them had very heavy and productive seasons. We have nearly 25 individuals and families managing different plots. Fall planting has begun, even though the summer heat is still with us, and even though the PVCC campus is largely empty of students the garden has remained a friendly reminder of people caring for people. Digging in the dirt is also a concrete act to best the worst of this extended season’s megrims.

I would like to thank the cheerful and hardworking team of local company Relish Careers for doing a volunteering shift in the garden on Wednesday ( We are indebted to you for braving the heat and thunderstorms, weeding, tying up and the general neatening up that you helped with.

June update

All beds in the PVCC Community Garden are full and the garden is in overall good shape, even while the world outside rumbles with protests and returns from isolation. Approximately 25 individuals are regularly coming to garden and we’re beginning to get enough crops to harvest and feed them into the local food pantries, food banks, and local nonprofits.
Here are a few pictures from earlier this morning.

All beds in full swing

I just wanted to let readers know that we have stayed open throughout this spring growing season. There has been an influx of community members looking to grow and all of the plots are being taken care of by a mixture of new and experienced gardeners. A late frost took out some early tomatoes, peppers, and the like, even damaging the persimmon trees, but in a fine show of resilience our folks have dug in and already replanted. Last year’s row of blackberry and raspberry plants is growing nicely by the back fence and peach trees are starting to blush amidst the full foliage. We even have a small and growing wait list of people looking to join the garden.

It’s just been a delight and a comfort watching people maintaining both social distancing and their sanity, getting their hands in the soil and wringing forth new growth, so important in these days of stasis, fear and uncertainty.

Stay well. Keep on growing.

April Update

Just a few pictures to end the day and start the weekend. Almost all of the beds are planted! There are baby peaches growing. The garden gate lilac is blooming… Now let’s see how much we can grow!

Spring Update

Plants grow just fine while we humans struggle with how to deal with the coronavirus. So, while things are a little bumpy right now, I urge you to get your hands in the dirt and get that garden growing! Especially in times of stress, focusing on things that make you mindful and happy are very, very important. And there is certainly going to be a need to provide healthy vegetables to the hungry in our community.

UVA has sent their students home and so with a heavy heart I bid adieu to the Madison House garden volunteers. They were a great group, full of joy and energy, and I’m certain that they regret not being able to garden with us this spring. Hopefully many of them will return in the summer and/or fall. A picture of them, joined by another friend or two, is posted below in farewell.

If you are reading this and wish to grow some food this spring/summer, we have bed space available. Contact David Lerman at

From the Dirt

Green Eating in Practice

I would like to showcase some simple recipes that can be made from produce grown in the garden:

Row the Sweet Potato Boat
Ingredients: 1 sweet potato, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, ¼ teaspoon of smoked paprika, ¼ teaspoon of salt, ¼ teaspoon of ground pepper, ½ cup of tomatoes, 2 tablespoons of finely chopped red onion, 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar

Instructions: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash the dirt off the sweet potato, tomatoes, and red onion. Cut the sweet potato in half and top it with ½ a teaspoon of olive oil, ¼ teaspoon of smoked paprika, ¼ teaspoon of salt, and ¼ teaspoon of ground pepper. Put the sweet potatoes onto the baking sheet and and roast for 30 minutes. In a pan, roast the tomatoes and onions and add in a ½ teaspoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar. When the sweet potatoes are done roasting, top them off with the tomatoes and onion. Bon Appétit!

The ‘Being a Little Nutty is Amazing’ Salad
Ingredients: handful of arugula, handful of kale, ½ cup of tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of pine nuts, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper

Instructions: Wash the arugula, kale, and tomatoes. Plate the arugula and kale and add the tomatoes on top. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top and drizzle the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Eat immediately and enjoy!

The Berry Green Salad
Ingredients: handful of spinach, ½ cup of blueberries, ½ cup of sliced strawberries, ½ tablespoon of chopped walnuts, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper

Instructions: Wash the spinach, blueberries, and strawberries. Plate the spinach and add the berries on top. Chop up the walnuts and sprinkle on top. Drizzle some balsamic vinegar on top and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Green Eating: Debunking the Myth

Eating a mainly plant-based diet translates into consuming more whole foods and plants. It may not necessarily mean cutting out animal products completely. A common misconception is that plant-based diets are synonymous with veganism. However, this is false. You can construct your own definition of what a plant-based diet means to you. You can be vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or omnivorous. Whatever you label yourself, if you are eating entirely or mostly foods derived from plants, such as vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and fruits, then you eating a mainly plant-based diet.

Now, you may be wondering about the benefits of eating a mainly plant-based diet. Well, you have come to the right place. A plant-based diet can increase your overall health through many avenues. Most notably, it can reduce your risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, dementia, and certain forms of cancer. In terms of your mental well-being, eating a plant-based diet can make you happier because there is a correlation between increased life satisfaction and filling up on fruits and vegetables. To make this diet even more appealing, it can help you look younger! The vitamins in fruits and vegetables can decrease the signs of aging and reduce the effects of sun damage. Who wouldn’t want to look like they physically time traveled back to the past? If you want to improve your physical and mental health, I encourage you to switch to a mainly plant-based diet. And if you are already eating a mainly plant-based diet, keep doing what you are doing. You got this!