After a successful first season in 2010, the West Caldwell Community Garden is under way for 2011! With many returning members from last year, the group is excited to start planting and welcome in a new harvest. Last year saw lots of successful crops, including eggplants, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini, beans, herbs, flowers, corn, and even some chick peas!
The garden was started by West Caldwell’s Environmental Commission. Located on Westville Avenue just north of the Historical Society, the large sunny area is home to 30 plots. Each garden plot is individually staked out and measures 10 feet by 15 feet. The township has tilled all the plots and has also delivered a pile of rich composted leaves for the gardeners to spread on their gardens and improve their soil.
Although the safe date (no more danger of frost) for planting warm season crops is around Mother’s Day for our area, some gardeners have started some vegetables that can be planted earlier, including kale, peas, arugula, spinach, and beets. Others are starting their tomato seeds indoors in anticipation of planting them in the garden in May.
With the knowledge gained from last year’s experience and a full month’s head start over 2010, it looks like we are in for a good season, with one exception: Old Man Winter is having a difficult time leaving us. Damp, sunless days keep the soil cold, making seed germination and root development, even for cool season crops, very difficult. Also, when transplants are set out in below normal temperatures, their growth may be stunted, which can place these plants in jeopardy. It is for this reason that early planting should be determined not by the calendar but by current weather conditions and future weather forecasts. Despite the occasional adversities, though, gardening is a wonderful hobby that can be both challenging and rewarding.
Speaking of challenging, no garden story is ever complete without a groundhog saga, right? There are a few such critters that live near the garden and they certainly had quite a buffet in front of them last season. Although gardeners fence their areas, the hungry animals usually found a way in. They sure love broccoli! The township is hoping to relocate these fuzzy friends to an area further from the garden. Stay tuned.
Most of last year’s gardeners are back again, and some new members have already joined. There are currently five plots remaining. If you are interested, please call the West Caldwell Municipal Building at 973-226-2300 and ask for more information. The plots are available to residents of West Caldwell. The cost for the first year is $50; if you return the following year, it is $25.
Next time you are in the area, or taking a dip in the Westville Pool, take a peek at the garden. You never know what will be popping up.
Jack Kupcho also contributed to this article.