Press-Republican

July 15, 2013

Sun shows finally for community gardener

By ROBIN CAUDELL
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — It’s been a wet one for plot holders like Mary-Alice Shemo at the Plattsburgh Community Garden. 

“You go to the garden and you come away with soaking wet shoes,” said Shemo, a community activist and Waterford, N.Y., native.

“The meadow has turned into a marsh. You go squish-squish-squish walking.”

She had a bumper crop of alpine strawberries this season.

“They’re done now. I started this with four plants someone gave me in the fall of ‘09. They are more flavorful. You definitely taste more strawberries when you eat them.”

In Shemo’s plot, she grows peas, radish, cabbage, broccoli, green pepper, eggplant, tomato and basil, of course.

“It’s been great for the weeds. They are very happy,” she said. “The weeds are happier than the crops. 

“Some things I didn’t get planted as soon as I wanted to. It (rain) has just kept on. Usually, you get the heavy rain in the spring, and then it moderates a little bit. But it’s been like April right up until July. We’ve had two or three days in a spell of sun sometimes, not nearly as many as normal.”

She picks leaves off her tomato plants that touch the ground.

“I did not tie these up early enough. I have to get a stake in here and tie them up. We just got word blight has been seen somewhere in western New York and New England. The spores float on the wind. They land on the top of the plant and kill everything.”

She harvests her Romaine lettuce leaf by leaf.

“Because it keeps on growing, and it doesn’t bolt as soon if you keep harvesting it.”

Shemo started planting her plot the summer of 2009 when she relocated from Pittsburgh, Pa.

“I picked up a plot that had been abandoned because of the late blight of tomatoes. I’ve been working that same plot ever since.”

The 69-year-old is a grandmother to twin grandsons, 13, and a grand-daughter, 3.

“The three-year-old is now my assistant gardener. I have had more fun gardening this year than I ever had. It’s so great.”

Her grandchildren are away on vacation, so she’s toiling in her plot alone right now.

“I’m hoping to put in some carrots and Swiss chard,” Shemo said.

Email Robin Caudell:rcaudell@pressrepublican.com