A soapy execution was on Lonnie Fairchild's mind.

Between her fingers she held bean leaves that had been munched by Japanese beetles.

"The best way to kill them is put a little dish-washing soap in a bucket of water and push the beetles into the water," said Fairchild, a second-year Plattsburgh Community Garden member.

"It sounds brutal. It's not toxic, so it's all good."


Mary Alice Shemo shared her jar of soap with Fairchild. Shemo, a Pittsburgh transplant, took over an abandoned plot. Now, it is thick with carrots, Swiss chard, strawberries, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, onion, peas, green peppers, ground cherries, cucumbers, bok choy, cabbage and beets.

Shemo grows her bounty for herself, as well as her daughter, Connie Shemo, and son-in-law, Bill Fischer, and their three children: twins Rory and Kiernan and a new baby girl, Meara.

"Her first solid food will be stuff out of here," Shemo said.

The Community Garden is seeing another successful summer, having expanded from its original 32 plots to 44, plus an additional two plots designated for the Plattsburgh Interfaith Food Shelf.


Instructor Anne Lenox Barlow was talking about cool-season crops this particular day.

"It's time to plant beets, Swiss chard, lettuce and kale," said Barlow, who grows enough produce for a family of four.

At home, she has another plot the same size.

"I have 10 tomato plants at home. I have two here. I will use the cabbage to make sauerkraut, kimchi and eat it fresh."

The gardeners signed up for the Barlow's class through Cornell Cooperative Extension in Clinton County.

"They received a full plot, their plants and seeds, as well as twice weekly hour-long classes and instruction in gardening," said Doug Butdorf, chair of Plattsburgh Community Garden Inc., which manages the garden and leases the space from the City of Plattsburgh.

"We have a number of novice gardeners who are taking advantage of the learning opportunity that is provided by the Plattsburgh Community Garden in cooperation with the Cornell Cooperative Extension."


"We've added a community squash bed," Butdorf said. "In that bed, all the winter squash, acorn squash, etc., is distributed to all the gardeners."

A new permanent wood shed was built, he said, "which looks so much better than the other one. It's painted to match the other buildings in the park.

"We've added a garden-waste compost bin, just for garden waste and plant trimmings. We've added two additional watering spigots."

A July 24 street drive generated more than $400 for the garden's expansion.

"We're working on expanding to South Acres Park and to a location in the Town of Plattsburgh, not far from Walmart," Butdorf said.


The garden attracts toddlers with parents to octogenarians.

"There is a significant increase in community gardens happening all over the country," Butdorf said.

"There is national body called the American Community Garden Association."


In each hand, Tom Loughan grasped a plastic bag stretched with fresh vegetables he's serving weekend guests.

"I moved from Peru. I had a garden for many years."

When he moved into a condo, he was resigned that his gardening days were done.

Now that he's a Community Garden member, "I can still get my garden fix. It was perfect for me. It's been great meeting people."

He has picked up tips and plans future experimentation with spices and herbs.

Over in the next row, Marty Maggy prepared to weed with a spiked implement that looked deadly.

"Both of my grandfathers had gardens as big as this one in Dannemora," Maggy said. "There was not a weed in it."

Carrots could be plucked from the rich, black earth and eaten unwashed.

"I spent a lot of time in their gardens," Maggy said.

E-mail Robin Caudell at: rcaudell@pressrepublican.com

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