FRIDAY FINDS

Some of my favorite blogs do something different than their usual content on Fridays. One of my favorite takes on this is what some bloggers call a "Love List." In other words, they just link to a lot of things they are interested in that week and think their readers might be interested in as well. So I thought I'd give it a try. Let me know what you think (or maybe you think we should just get on with getting that darn pergola up on the garage and I should tell you about it).

So here's what I found on the Web this week that I'm loving:

If you're missing Young House Love like I am, here's an interesting NYT story about blog burnout.

There has to be more to garden design than boxwoods, right?

This tutorial on how to remove damaged veneer.

A plaid fence.

I am so in love with this black wall with the colorful art on it. 

As far as plant selection goes, this might be my favorite Deborah Silver garden ever.

MYSTERY SOLVED

Well it didn't take long to solve the mystery of what happened to the community garden plots (see the story here). At least one plot-holder complained to the local police (I'm not sure if she filed an official report but she at least made them aware of what had happened) and several irate gardeners complained to the higher-ups at the YMCA, so it's not surprising that someone got to the bottom of it without much delay.

And answer is sort of sad, a little unsatisfying and not something that can really be fixed.

One of our plots following the unauthorized clean up. (Each of these long beds holds three plots.) You can see that plots with flowers don't appear to have been touched.

Apparently it was a fellow gardener who was responsible for cleaning out everyone's plots, including all of their produce. But this gardener is new to the community garden and has adaptive needs, according to the executive director of the Y. Basically, she doesn't understand that what she did was wrong. She said she has been tending and harvesting plots all summer and no one said anything about it. I did notice some produce had been harvested (for instance, I'd see an almost ripe tomato on a vine and leave it there but it would be gone when I would come back a couple days later), but I've learned that a little bit of loss is to be expected. It's not nice but I always hope that it's being done by someone who needs the food.

She did take some of the food from people's plots, but she also dug up the kale growing in our garden and my sister-in-law's plot and attempted to replant it in her own plots. She threw much of the rest of people's produce in the compost pile. It seems she did most of her gardening on other people's plots outside of the operating hours of the Y because no one ever saw her doing any of this. (To my knowledge, there are no rules about when you can garden on these plots.)

The now very sad Redbor kale my sister-in-law was growing was dug up and transplanted to the perpetrator's plot.
According to the Y director, this person really believed that all of the plots were her responsibility. Now of course, this doesn't really add up, but I don't know what sort of adaptive needs this woman has and it's not my place to know.

There are issues with this, of course. For instance, all plot holders must sign a contract laying out a few basic rules that include things about when plots must be planted and cleaned up by, very rough maintenance guidelines, rules about chemical use and an understanding that the only plots you have access to are those you rent and the two plots shared by the community. Obviously this woman did not understand the contract, and it sounds like she probably didn't have the capacity to understand it, so I'm not sure how the Y could have allowed her to sign it.

But all of that is hindsight. It's not really anyone's fault and I assume the Y and the community garden program will learn and adapt from this experience. I do feel better that it wasn't a malicious act by someone.

Perhaps it's best to chalk it up to just one more bummer in summer of gardening bummers. And with that, I promise to stop complaining about the lousy summer!

THE DAY THE GARDEN DISAPPEARED

I'll admit, my enthusiasm for gardening on the plots my mom and I share at the local community garden (part of the YMCA) was lacking a bit this year. With the lousy weather, it was all I could do to drag myself out there to do a lot of tending. But between the two of us, we got our plots planted and kept them mostly weeded.

The tomatoes there were almost as bad as the ones I grew at home, but in another plot I had dozens (at least 50) of gorgeous onions growing. I was very excited because I was planning to keep them and have home grown onions at least into late November and the crop was looking great. There were several softball-sized Walla wallas in there.

They started as seedlings like these and grew like gangbusters but now all my onions on my community garden plot are gone. The mystery: Who took them?

I was a little irritated a month ago or so when I noticed that a few onions had been, um, "liberated" from the plot. But then again, I expect a bit of that to happen when you're gardening out in the open. But imagine my surprise when my mom called me this weekend to tell me our plots were empty.

Everything was gone.

And it wasn't just our plots, it was all the plots. The tomato supports were neatly stacked up and set aside and all of the plots had been rototilled. My mom checked the compost bin and all of the onion tops were there, but no onions, meaning whoever cleaned out the beds helped themselves to all of our produce before they "cleaned" them out.

The kale I was growing was also taken. Other plots had beautiful beans growing that were drying on the vines for winter use. Another gardener had planted kohlrabi and other vegetables for a late season harvest. And with our cold summer, many crops were ripening very late this year.

There are two plots dedicated to herbs and crops for all of the gardeners there to share. Our master gardener group donated two beautiful rhubarb plants to the communal plots. Those, too, have been pulled out and tilled under.

Other gardeners are equally perplexed and angry but no one has a clue who committed this violation of our plots. I suspect it was a fellow plot-holder. Who else would carefully stack tomato cages and till plots (after stealing all of the contents)? If it was just someone looking for free produce they wouldn't have bothered with that.

I really hope I'm wrong. I hope a fellow gardener didn't do this. I like to think that gardeners are better people than that and no matter which way I frame this, I can't think of a way in which this is at all justifiable in anyone's mind.

I love the idea of community gardens. And while I wish the community gardens here were a little bit more like the allottments I see on British gardening television shows, where people have sheds and make tea and hang out, I still think a community garden is a pretty special place. Well, I used to anyway.

A PERFECT TOMATO EASES THE PAIN OF A LOUSY SUMMER

It's hard to imagine that there was a time when I had very little interest in growing vegetables. You might not know it by looking at my vegetable garden, which is in a sorry state this year, but I get so much pleasure out of growing my own food.

Last night, I asked Mr. Much More Patient to bring home a piece of fish for dinner, knowing that we had rice or pasta in the pantry and that I could walk out to the veggie garden and find some kind of vegetable. I actually didn't know what might be ready (since there were no zucchinis on that were big enough it ended up being Swiss chard), but I knew I'd find something out there. I love that feeling.

a perfect tomato

But even before I had a real vegetable garden, there were tomatoes. I love tomatoes. Correction, I love homegrown tomatoes (the ones you buy in the store in winter bear absolutely no relation to a real tomato and probably shouldn't even qualify as one). I've been growing them as long as I've been growing anything. In fact, I suspect the first plant I ever stuck in a pot and put out on a miniscule patio at a first apartment was probably a tomato.

Which is why this summer of bad weather feels even less like summer: there were hardly any tomatoes. All of my tomato plants in the veggie garden at home faltered. Some of them appearing to just fade away, others apparently the victims of some kind of blight. I can't tell you how sad I am about it. To me summer isn't summer without homegrown tomatoes.

I've been supplementing my tomato requirements at the local farmers market, but I did have success with the one plant I put in a pot on the patio, which enjoys a super sunny and warm location.

And the other day, I picked what I think is probably the most perfect tomato I've ever grown. It was about the size of a softball and perfectly round, without so much as a scar on it. Shiny and red, it was equally as delicious as it was pretty.

And it made this horrible tomato summer just a little more tolerable.

What were your successes and failure in the vegetable garden this year?