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Where We Live by John Silveira and Richard Blunt. Photos and commentary from Oregon and New England.

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Archive for the ‘Gardens’ Category


Kolp Gardens–Mid Season Harvest

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

This is the time, during  the growing season, when the efforts of serious gardeners begin to stand out from the crowd. The gardens shown here are on the northwest end of Kolp Gardens. Most of the plots in this area measure 2500 square feet. All of them are worked by serious gardeners with years of experience. These photos were taken on the third day of a rainless heat wave that sent temperatures, in the gardens, to about 100 degrees. During times like this the cool, clean water of Farmington River makes gardening at this level possible. Some of the gardeners use long hoses attached to powerful water pumps powered by gas generators. With these rigs they pump water, from the river, to large containers set up in their gardens. This is one area where the atmosphere of family cooperation is very evident. The closest garden in the overview photo is worked by a gardener named Luke. It is actually three 2500 square foot plots maintained  as one by Luke and his family. Luke often works with other gardeners; helping them solve problems with planting and harvest. During long dry spells he will share his water resource with neighboring gardeners.  A close look at the gardens in this area reveals that his plan is working. The container shown below was set up by Luke; it holds at least 300 gallons of water.

Every year the lilies in my garden act as barometer for the growing season at the Gardens. Here they are in full bloom awaiting a visit the annual visit from a migrating Monarch butterfly. Their development also tells me that the mid season harvest is under way.

Lou, one of the gardeners in this area takes a few minutes from his harvest to call home and let his family know that he stopped by the gardens, after work to pick some lima beans and broccoli. He will fill these baskets two or three more times during the growing season.

Below is one of the most productive gardeners in this area. Along with her family she maintains two large plots. This year she has planted Thai basil, chili peppers, snap beans, squash, onions and at least two varieties of hardy greens. In this photo she is tending several rows of summer squash. Pictured below is her adjacent plot containing ,what I estimate to be, over 100 flourishing chili pepper plants.  Her family will often help her with her gardens, but she is without a doubt, the gardener in charge. Nothing happens in these gardens without her approval.

In spite of the dry hot weather that has plagued the gardeners for the past few weeks; Master gardener, Terri , continues to demonstrate her talent for planning, planting and maintaining an extraordinary garden. In my next update, I will list the flower varieties pictured here.

There are several gardeners named Lou working plots in this section of the gardens. The Lou pictured below is working in what appears to be a tropical forest.  Actually,he  has planted his garden in growth of wild giant sun flowers.  He tells me that the  flowers provide shade for both him and his plants during the hot months. When the plants mature he removes the heavily seeded flowers and hangs them in his back yard to feed the birds and other small animals gather food for the winter months.

The flowers pictured here are at least 8 feet tall. Since these flowers are somewhat a hindrance to the professional farmer who plows the gardens at the end of the growing season; Lou chops down and removes remaining stalks and removes them from the fields.

While walking through Luke’s family garden, he directed me to a long row of fruiting tomato plants. He pointed to a plant at the beginning of the row that  looked a little out of place, and asked me if I knew what kind of tomato it was. I recognized it as a Tomatillo (pronounced, toh-MAH-tee-yo), a close relative of the tomato. The Aztecs are believed to have domesticated this fruit in 800 B.C. It contributes a tart but refreshing flavor to a variety of Mexican green sauces like Salsa Verde  This green sauce is a combination of roasted or boiled tomatillos combined with onions, fresh chili peppers, fresh garlic, olive oil, fresh cilantro,  lightly processed  with a little fresh lime juice. The tomatillo can also be used in a variety of sauces for meats, added to  a variety of stews or eaten raw. This fruit is not always  available  in supermarkets in this area. It is my hope that Luke will be willing to share a little of this new found bounty.

In the next update we will see some the late season crops like melons, potatoes, squash and onions. Several interesting varieties of the vegetables are planted  throughout Kolp Gardens


New Growing Season at Kolp Gardens

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Kolp gardens is the largest community gardening area in the state of Connecticut. It offers potential gardeners 92  large plots  with 2500 square feet of planting space, and 104 small plots with 625 square feet of space. All of these plots are professionally measured and numbered by a town surveying team and prepared for planting by one of a local professional farmers. The gardeners start planning their gardening season as early as late February, by starting seeds, indoors, in preparation for planting outdoors in April. The folks that work these gardens are, in my opinion, skilled craftsmen and innovative artists. They all have developed  interesting and creative gardening techniques that are skillfully applied to their assigned areas.

The plots are open to residents of surrounding towns as well as Farmington residents. This brings gardeners of various ethnic and social backgrounds together, and blends them into a community where everyone has one universal passion—gardening. Vegetables and flowers from around the world can be found here. Giant pumpkins from Porto Rico, large, sweet tasting, and flavorful zucchini squash from Italy, and tender kale from Portugal have been planted this season.. The large plots are usually planted by veteran gardeners, some of whom have been working these gardens since  they opened in the 1980s. The smaller plots are worked by both veteran and new gardeners.  All of these plots, regardless of size, require the constant attention of a skilled and dedicated gardener. If a new gardener needs technical advise on how to set up and maintain their plot, all of the veteran gardeners are willing to answer questions and lend help when necessary. I will be returning to Kolp Gardens during this planting season to record and share, with you, the progress of the various plots.  Hopefully, this year, we will be spared the late season tropical storm and and early October snow fall that destroyed the area last year. With some good fortune and a lot of dedicated work all of these gardeners will  be rewarded with a  bounteous harvest in the fall.

There are several successful commercial farms sharing this fertile land with the Kolp Gardeners. Sweet corn seems to be the largest crop planted by these farms, but I have also seen potatoes, bush beans, tomatoes, summer and winter squash, pumpkins, winter rye and other vegetables being planted and harvested. The corn and winter rye fields above belong to the farm that also prepares Kolp Gardens soil for planting in the spring. The bailed winter rye, shown above, belongs to another farm. It serves as a cover crop during the winter and provides an ample harvest of mulch and feed hay to be used through-out the year.


Town surveyors planning the the plot layout for Kolp Gardens in Mid March.

Hours after their plots were marked by the surveyors, these two gardeners were there to start planning their gardens.

Kolp gardens on Friday June 22, 2012.

The Farmington River flows south/east past the gardens on the left, behind the trees.  Above is a view of the gardens in that direction. Most of the large plots are on this end.



Above is a view of the gardens facing north/west. Most of the smaller plots are at this end.

Above is Master gardener, Terri, crafting her garden for this growing season. She plants a varied assortment of vegetables, and some interesting flowers varieties. My daughter, Sarah, loves sun flowers, especially the varieties grown in this garden. I have asked Terri list the flowers that she is planting this year. I will post pictures and the names of the different varieties as the season progresses.  I must note that I have never seen anyone else working this plot except Terri. Her garden is a classic example of how the gardeners at Kolp  implement their talent and imagination.

Terri’s garden on Friday June 22, 2012

Pictured above are two other veteran gardeners with unique plots. The first picture was taken last year while this gardener spent several hours in that position tending a large bed of  Thai basil plants. The young man above has developed a talent for growing tender and hardy greens. This is another garden on my favorites list. We will learn more about this garden as the season progresses

A local Girl Scout troop learning how to garden from two knowledgeable instructors. On my last visit the progress in their garden showed them to be  fast learners.



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