By ROBIN CAUDELL
---- — PLATTSBURGH — Plum tomatoes, green beans, beets, Brussels sprout, dill weed basil, summer squash and marigolds are Keitha Farney’s harvest from the Plattsburgh Community Garden.
“Last year, I shared this plot,” said Farney, a retired kindergarten through grade-six librarian and Plattsburgh resident.
“This year, it was my whole plot. This year was not quite as good as last year because of the weather. Last year was an unbelievable growing season with so much sunshine and so forth. This year, we had rain when we didn’t need it, but my garden is great as far as I’m concerned.”
Her orange cats, Slinky and Little Guy, are recipients of a feline garden treat.
“There’s always catnip that grows itself, and I harvest that for my cats. They don’t go outdoors, but they do love the catnip. They go crazy for catnip,” she said.
Farney’s dill attracts butterflies.
“I think it’s good for the soil,” she said. “I did read somewhere it’s a good companion plant for Brussels sprout, so I put a lot of it in there and let it come up next year.”
She has lived in Plattsburgh for five years but has gardened for much longer.
“My father had a garden when I grew up. I wasn’t enthusiastic then, but as I got older I wanted to have a garden, so I’ve always done gardening.”
She grew up on the other side of the Adirondacks in Lewis County in a little town called Beaver Falls.
She finds the Champlain Valley a warmer zone. But her Brussels sprout will continue on for a while longer.
“I didn’t grow them from seed, of course, but I bought the six little plants. I am amazed. I think I have actually planted them too close together. I had six plants. I’ve taken three down, and I’m still leaving three because they are still good when it’s cold,” she said.
This fall day, Farney was alone in the garden.
“I just wanted to get my garden cleaned up; I thought I would take those and see what sprouts I could get off them,” she said.
She has already dried her plum tomatoes.
“I put them in the oven. It’s actually a Martha Stewart thing I found online. I think at 200 degrees or something like that. You slice them,” Farney said.
“She tells you halves, but if they’re really big, (cut them into) thirds, vertically, and put them in the oven. Put a little oil on the sheet first. She actually says use parchment paper, which I think I did because I had it. It takes four to five hours. I put them in oil after I dried them and put them in the refrigerator.”
She transformed her basil into pesto.
“I froze a lot of green beans. I have a little garden at home too so it’s both places. I grew the same green beans here that I grew there,” she said.
“I had green peppers both places, and I’m lucky enough that some of them got practically red. I froze some of those.”
Farney gardens for a variety of reasons.
“First of all, when I don’t garden, I try to buy as much locally as I can. I like growing my own food and knowing where it came from and so forth. If you garden yourself, you have more choices because you can choose what seeds to plant and plants to buy. It’s fun. I like to be able to go and pick things and eat them fresh. I just really enjoy it,” she said.
“I think it’s good for you to be out in the garden, digging in the dirt, being outdoors and getting some physical activity. Those are all the reasons why I garden, I guess.”
She has a compost at her home.
“You just put in all your leftover vegetable scraps, anything in the kitchen, your peelings and all of that. You have to put some dirt and stuff in it, too. You will be amazed. Just stir it up. Coffee grounds are great in there. I always put my coffee grounds and so forth in there. Every so often I will empty out the bottom, and there’s this nice brown dirt,” she said.
“Sometimes it’s not totally turned, but you can just put it in the ground and turn it over. Instead of having all that waste go away, it just goes down to nothing. It’s amazing. Every so often, I go out and shake it up with a pitchfork and pull the stuff from out of the bottom. Sometimes I put it back on top. Sometimes I put it on my garden.”
Farney threw her garden remains into a huge bin on-site. She was not alone in reaping the benefits from her plot.
“We had a great season,” said Doug Butdorf, chair of the Plattsburgh Community Garden Group.
“We had 60 plots supplying food for an estimated 250 Plattsburgh residents, all the households and family members in each household. We had no incidents of catastrophic plant illnesses. The Japanese beetles were lighter than previous years.
Working with Plant Another Row for Hunger, the community gardeners had donated several hundred pounds of produce for the Interfaith Food Shelf.”
The group is partnering with the Advocacy Resource Center, the Clinton County Health Department, the Plattsburgh Housing Authority and possibly the Salvation Army to create a garden on-site at the Housing Authority in 2014.
“People can contact me if they are interested in helping,” Butdorf said.
Email Robin Caudell:firstname.lastname@example.org
TO LEARN MORE
For information about the Plattsburgh Community Garden, email Doug Butdorf, chair of the group, at email@example.com.