Let it grow doesn’t just apply to hair these days, a trending topic has been self-sufficiency, such as planting and growing your own vegetable garden.
Gardens require dedication and sweat-equity, but in the end the fruits of that labor can result in fresh, tasty produce. So whether you give it a go at home or try a community garden while adhering to physical distancing, Tioga County has resources to get you started.
Barb Neal, Agriculture and Horticulture educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tioga County (CCE-Tioga), remarked, “If your property is too shady, community gardens are a great way for individuals to garden,” adding, “You need six to eight hours of afternoon sun to grow luscious plants like tomatoes and peppers.”
Neal commented that usually by May 3, cool season crops like spinach, lettuce, and kale can be planted.
“The key is how warm the soil is,” Neal said, and, “Not only the air temperature.”
Neal recommends waiting until the soil warms up to plant crops like tomatoes, peppers, squash and eggplant; and typically at the end of May.
Neal explained that maintaining a private bed in a community garden involves adhering to the organization’s guidelines, such as organic only, and minimizing weeds in your plot or bed so they do not impact others.
Lindy Pierce, Master Gardener, and the caretaker of the community garden in the Town of Tioga, commented, “Community gardens give you a chance to interact with your neighbors,” adding, “They also promote a sense of community.”
Town of Tioga Supervisor, Lou Zorn, remarked, “I’d like to see more residents use it,” and mentioned that the property, where homes once stood, was turned into a green space after working through FEMA and previous flooding issues.
The garden will now be more user-friendly thanks to a $4,100 grant that was acquired via the Mildred Truman Faulkner Foundation. A water system will be installed, and a storage shed was purchased with the funds.
Zorn said the Town would pick up some costs, too, and thanked the Tioga Center United Methodist Church for their help as a previous water source and place to store tools.
The use of the Town of Tioga’s community garden is free of charge for residents. If interested, request an application for the Town of Tioga community garden by emailing Pierce at email@example.com.
Pierce recommends individuals consider buying starter plants at local nurseries to support area businesses. At the Town of Tioga community garden, an organic method is used. As a way to attract pollinators, some gardeners choose to plant a few flowers amongst produce, too.
Groups are welcome. Pierce shared that a Girl Scout troop utilized two beds during a previous year, and then donated the food yielded.
Neal will be hosting a Victory Garden class for beginners, to include the basics like preparing soil, planting, garden care and harvesting.
The online Zoom class is free and scheduled for Wednesday, May 6 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. The presentation link is https://cornell.zoom.us/j/5722853064.
Although the Zoom meeting is free, if you are able, donations are appreciated ($10 per family suggested).
Also coming up in May is a Seed-A-Rama event, hosted by the Tioga County Master Gardeners. Scheduled for Saturday, May 23 from 10 a.m. to noon, free seeds and vegetable starters will be distributed at the Tioga County Fairgrounds 4-H building. Due to the need for physical distancing, the event is drive-through. Masks are required. To receive items, simply drive up and pop open your trunk or roll down your back window.
Other community gardens in Tioga County include the Newark Valley Community Beds; contacts are Mayor Jim Tornatore at firstname.lastname@example.org or Greg Schweiger, GSchwieger@nvcs.stier.org. For the Spencer Lions Club Community Garden contact Lisa Barber by email to email@example.com, or call (607) 589-7204.
To be connected to a garden bed in Tioga County, contact Barb Neal at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Tioga Opportunities location is full.
Two Harvest Share free veggie stands that distribute gardeners’ extra produce are in the works. Look for veggie stands from the Spencer Community Gardens at the Inspire Building and at Tioga County Rural Ministry. Neal said a third veggie stand would be placed in northern Tioga (Berkshire or Richford).
A resource for gardening tips and links to events can be found at CCE-Tioga’s website, http://tioga.cce.cornell.edu/gardening. While there, a link to Cornell University’s Garden-Based Learning web site provides vegetable growing guides.