Gardening Made Easy at Pennswood Village Community Garden
Does the idea of gardening appeal to you, but you’re not sure about all the work and commitment involved? Gardening at the Pennswood Village community garden could hardly be easier! It’s a warm, friendly, and supportive environment where you can manage a garden plot and cultivate vegetables and flowers with as much help and guidance as you’d like from accomplished gardeners. New community members are often amazed by how easy it is to participate here.
The garden is made up of 48 raised beds on 4½ acres, located on the road toward George School just ⅛ mile from Pennswood. The route is quite beautiful, and there are various options to get there: rides provided by the community from 9 a.m. to noon, walking or biking along the winding pathway through the meadow like three-year participant Jenny Hollingshead does, and her husband Irv comes and goes by scooter.
Jenny and her husband, along with Anne Peake and Mary Jo Ranton, generously tend a plot specifically for the Pennswood kitchen, so other residents get to enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor, which includes 75 pounds of tomatoes, yellow squash, Swiss chard, and 99 butternut squash so far this year. Chef Steve and his crew make great use of the harvest, turning it into delicious soups and veggie dishes (see more of their creations on our Facebook page).
Pennswood staff have gone to great lengths to eliminate all sorts of inconveniences and add to participants’ enjoyment: they rototill the plots to ready the ground, provide compost finished on-site, and have bordered the garden with a 7½-foot fence to keep deer out and embedded a vinyl-coated wire to protect the plants from groundhogs and rabbits. Long-handled tools and storage for personal tools is provided. All that’s left to do is plant, fertilize, and keep the plot free of weeds, and even that’s made easier by the raised beds and through use of special cloth that curbs weed growth. Garden maintenance also provides an opportunity for the residents of Pennswood Village to interact and teach the students at the Newtown Friends School, who visit a few times each year to help tend the gardens. The project is a wonderful outlet for any resident who wants to learn about growing things; no previous experience required! Jenny sums it up this way: “It’s very elegant gardening here.”
Resident and expert gardener Jon Harding is on the garden committee and has been growing at Pennswood for eight years. He’s a great resource for advice, but confirms what any seasoned gardener can tell you: there are too many variables to be certain how something will do. One can’t control the weather or when a dry season strikes, but the experienced project gardeners will tell you that you can really increase your chances of success by using the best disease-resistant seeds and planting at the right time of year. In fact, the unpredictability is considered part of the enjoyment.
For instance, one gardener had her heart set on growing sweet potatoes, which Jon thought might be vulnerable to voles, which can feed on the roots. In that case, the sweet potato vines prevailed and absolutely took over. She had such a bountiful harvest, she got way more than her fill and was sick of them by the end!
Jon has a particular reputation for growing watermelon, and recently grew (and shared with residents) a tasty 42-pound, 9-ounce Jubilee watermelon.
Jon and Jenny both count enjoyment of the surrounding area among the benefits of gardening. One can go out in the evening after a hot day and sit quietly, watching hawks, chickadees, tree swallows, and butterflies in the meadow (which is also a conservation area).
The community has open house events near Memorial Day and Labor Day each year and is welcoming new gardeners now–for more information and to get involved, contact the Community Garden Committee.