2017 at the Walter Reed Garden was a blast, reports head gardener Catherine Connor. Here’s her report:
A lot goes into keeping a garden healthy and productive: good volunteers and good coordination, good seeds, generous rains and sunshine, healthy compost, and well-timed plantings. The AFAC Walter Reed Garden was blessed by all of these and more this past season. Between February and November, over 50 volunteers helped during our twice-weekly work sessions – from teenagers to retirees, experienced gardeners and complete newbies. Several scouts and other groups helped us with special projects, comprising another 30+ volunteers. Others helped with growing seedlings, mowing, harvesting, cutting bamboo for trellises, and manning open houses. Our volunteers’ dedication and contributions have been extraordinary. We could not have done it without them!
This year’s harvest was bountiful. We grew 1,130 pounds of fresh produce for AFAC, and planted 20 different crops, which included sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes (mostly Juliet Roma variety tomatoes), pole and bush beans, lettuce (Parris Island Romaine does very well at WRG), turnips, beets, spinach and collards. We also grew green onions (spring and Egyptian “walking” onions), white and red radishes, potatoes, shallots and herbs. We attracted pollinators with marigolds, borage, and other flowers. Sweet potatoes, on the other hand, grew more foliage than fruit, perhaps because the soil was too nitrogen-rich, and pests and diseases wiped out the cucumber and summer squash crops. All in all, though, it was a very productive season.
Some noteworthy structural improvements were made this year: three new raised beds were built (thank you to the Tripathi family, Troop 111 and Scott): a mini greenhouse was donated (thank you to Ft. Barnard neighbors Joe and Linda); a set of new compost bins were added (thank you Patrick); new compost bin lids were built (thank you Stephanie); new bamboo structures were erected over two beds to support pole beans (thank you Bob, David, Puwen and Scott) and the paths between beds were extensively weeded, rototilled, covered and weeded to better control the rampant wire grass (thank you Frontstream group). Scott generously donated new water timers and a large well-balanced wheelbarrow and painted a new rain barrel. Currently, WRG has 530 square feet of raised beds (including 2 large grow bags) and we host AFAC’s 6-bin compost station, which accepts weekly infusions of vegetable and fruit scraps from AFAC’s warehouse sorting process during the warmer months. In July we held a public open house to show off our beds and irrigation systems, and in early October attendees of the Virginia Urban Agriculture Summit visited us during their tour of Northern Virginia farms and gardens.
Catherine Connor and Puwen Lee transformed the final harvest of the season, a bushel+ of green tomatoes, into three delicious kinds of pickles and a mock mince-meat pie (Catherine) and picallili (Puwen). The recipes are attached for gardeners who face this late fall abundance each year.
Here is the recipe for the pickled green tomatoes https://www.gardenbetty.com/four-ways-to-pickled-green-tomatoes/
Two mincemeat recipes, both inspired from https://www.acanadianfoodie.com/2013/11/09/the-canadian-food-experience-project-challenge-six-green-tomato-mincemeat/ and https://planetjanetkitchen.com/2016/09/28/vegetarian-mincemeat-with-apples-green-tomatoes-butter/