Sue Howell: Arlington Victory Gardener


What does one do after retiring from a demanding job at Georgetown University Hospital?  In Sue Howell’s case, it meant following an interest that began in childhood: gardening. After Sue came across a documentary on Victory Gardens, private plots used to bolster the food supply in the U.S. during World War II, she was determined to see what she could grow in her own yard. For several successive years, Sue has been the TOP INDIVIDUAL DONOR to AFAC’s Plot Against Hunger program.

In Arlington, Sue now tends gardens in three yards (her own, her sister’s, and an elderly neighbor’s), and produces at least half a ton of vegetables for AFAC each summer.  After the notoriously rainy season in 2018, Sue’s donations to AFAC amounted to 1300 lbs.  She told us in her understated way:  ” it was less than half of what I grew” (meaning she’d shared the other half with other lucky souls) and “my worst year ever.” This year’s total stands at 1,516 to date, a tribute to her persistence in the face of pesky squirrels and late summer dry spells.

What is Sue’s secret to creamy White Lady Turnips, beautiful heads of butterhead lettuce, and tromboncino squash almost as tall as she is?  Raised beds, Arlington leaf mulch mixed with fill dirt, starting seedlings indoors while the snow lies on the ground, vertical gardening, “watching the weather like a hawk,” and accurate timing.  But most of all, constant care(ing).