As Spring Becomes Summer

Hello, this is my first post in which I will make an effort, perhaps inadequately so, to describe all of the exciting developments that have been happening around the garden since I arrived back at Haverford for the Summer on May 20th. I spent a week at home, discussing my goals, plans and sometimes-unrealistic visions with some of the more pragmatic and experienced agriculturalists in my family. Their feedback was supplemented by my own prior experience; I created a garden last summer. I cut the weeds with a machete, tilled the earth, put the seeds in the ground and proceeded to wake up at 11:30 am, full of inspiration, to find that I could manage to bear the summer’s heat for upwards of ten minutes a day. Needless to say, the weeds became overgrown, and the wild reclaimed the garden that I had originally held grand aspirations for. I acknowledge that this was a failure, but perhaps I don’t give myself enough credit. There were some days when I could harvest a few watermelons and several pounds of tomatoes and peppers, but it is fair to say that my first garden did not reach its full potential.

Today is Thursday, June 7th, and I am close to concluding my third week of work in the garden. The week between the end of classes and the beginning of the summer term was critical in establishing my motivation for this project, and so far I believe I have lived up to my expectations. In 2010, Andrew Bostick and many dedicated volunteers and members of the Haverford Garden Initiative established an impressive set-up, consisting of four permanent raised beds, approximately 25 feet long and 3.5 feet wide, and one non-permanent raised bed, approximately 25 feet long and 15 feet wide.

After I arrived and moved all of my college belongings from HCA 26 to HCA 10 with the help of a giant rickshaw, I then went about installing the remainder of the fruit trees leftover from a planting day organized by the Committee for Environmental Responsibility. These trees have been planted all around the perimeter of the Haverford College Apartments, and should begin bearing pears, cherries and apples in a few years.

I then went about preparing the garden for the summer’s growth. There were several crops that had impressively survived through the winter, but were unfortunately inedible. I pulled beets, string beans, bush beans, kale and broccoli out of the ground and proceeded to re-till the soil with a long  handled manual cultivator after adding some student generated compost to re-juvinate the beds’ nutrients.

The rest of the remaining crops, lettuce, chard, spinach, arugula, and radishes were thriving and ready for harvest. I invited the students living in the apartments for the summer, and the faculty that I interacted with by chance to come and grab salad fixins’. By the time the greens had gone to seed I was surprised to see that the Haverford community had barely made a dent in the amount of produce available. I took home ten pounds of radishes myself, and passed another ten off on a friendly dog-walker named Suzanne. I am grateful to be living with an inventive cook this summer, Avi Bregman ‘14, who quickly discovered that radishes are highly edible after being steamed, buttered and salted.

The greens going to seed marked this garden’s transition between spring and summer, a process that has continued as the peas and some golden beets have become ripe. In the past two weeks, I have planted and impatiently enjoyed watching the summer squash, cucumber, zucchini, winter squash, tomatoes, beans, onion, shallots, chard, kale, okra, basil, mint, rosemary, pepper, watermelon, cantaloupe, eggplant, pumpkins, and strawberries grow centimeter by centimeter.

In line with my goal to expand the garden as much as possible, I have constructed five new raised beds. Three are 8 feet by 8 feet, and two are 6 feet by 6 feet. Claudia Kent, the Assistant Director of Facilities Management told me that when they were first established, installing the raised beds required close to fifteen students, to cut, drill and dig. I suppose I am fairly lucky then because I’ve been provided with raised bed corner connectors, that make it much easier to construct the beds. The process of bed construction for me entails digging the soil to a depth of 1 foot with a pick-ax and shovel, and asking Claudia to deliver a couple bucket-fulls of 50-50 top soil compost mix with the back-hoe.

Many of the late summer crops, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon and pumpkin are still growing in the greenhouse and I hope these new beds will provide convenient homes. Though, there are close to 200 seedlings in the greenhouse so there may be some more tilling required in the near future. Claudia has been incredibly helpful so far. She has encouraged me to wake up early, and has taken me on several trips to the local Home Depot to pick up lumber for the new raised beds. Additionally, she ordered a new shed for the garden, which I constructed last Friday with the help of a friend, Harvey Fulton ’14. She has also made funding available through the  to cover the cost of miscellaneous garden needs such as seeds, seedlings, garden markers and trellis materials.

That’s all for today, I hope to post again soon with news of further progress.

-Stuart

 

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