Watch Campos Community Garden Transform from Sluggish to Sensational

The 2016 gardening season has been a roller coaster so far…We started the season without two of our long-time gardeners, Campos’ founder Beverly McClain, who died last summer, finally succumbing to breast cancer she had fought for years, and Chef Christo Gonzales who died early last year and leaves a beautiful plot, a widow and a son behind.

Things looked tough in the beginning, wet, cold, no sun to be found, a new round of soil that seemed less than fertile and nothing coming up. Following in the footsteps of “Gangsta Gardener,” Ron Finley, I swore a blood oath to make the soil an offer it couldn’t refuse–I’ll nurture you and feed you well and you will produce.


After the very slow beginning, lots of replanting, feeding the soil numerous times with organic fertilizers like compost, blood meal and fish emulsion, along with Dr. Earth’s Organic tomato, vegetable and herb fertilizer, the garden began a slow incline and whoosh, suddenly we are off with a BANG and things are lush and ripening fast.

Here’s a photo journey through the first half of 2016 gardening season at Campos Community Garden and Children’s Garden at Campos.

Wet, Cold Spring Threatened to Put a Wet Blanket on Season’s Gardening Party

The early part of the season was a struggle, and raising some beds required new soil that needed much amending. I had started some plants in the late winter and they were healthy enough going into the ground, but some struggled quite a bit until the sun and the heat started showing up. Peas were a complete bust this year–we planted on St. Patrick’s Day, but the plants struggled, and starving birds and little pests looking for the first fresh food nibbled them away, even under screened covers. The photos don’t show quite the nadir of this cold spring and lack of oomph that stuck around well through May into June. Many seeds had to be replanted, though some turned out not to have rotted and came up in double timed frequency. Thinning became a challenge.

Delivery of new soil — thanks GreenThumbNYC!
Just a few of the DOZENS of types of saved and donated seeds started and sown this season from our technical assistance grant from Seed Savers
A healthy Japanese Black Trefele heirloom tomato plant goes in the ground
C’mon little marigolds–bloom!
Ahmed coaxing along a sluggish garden
Last year’s broccoli with seed heads the only major green thing in sight besides young greens.
Tomatoes starting to catch after much fertilizing
Eggplant and peppers hate the cold


Campos Children’s Garden Herb Spiral: an Evolving Living Sculpture

The herb spiral has changed in composition, mostly through its own doing. Strawberries at the top of the spiral were one thing that thrived during the cold spring, spreading shoots into the lower regions and producing bounties of juicy fresh berries for kids and fellow gardeners to enjoy. Bergamot or orange mint is also spreading, a bit too much and we have donated bundles of it (and nearby sage) to a local affordable CSA that distributes out of Campos. Lavender is practically a cottage industry and in a future post, we’ll show you how we made teas and bath sachets out of the abundant lavender, mints, lemon balm, calendula and other herbs and flowers we have growing in the herb spiral and around the Children’s garden.

Strawberries flowering and spreading their shoots
Just a hint of the lavender bounty to come
BEAUTIFUL strawberries tempting to be picked
The spiral coming to life
View from north side of spiral
Colors are popping
Rue flowers with bee
North side a few weeks later. Life!
A view through the grape leaves


Suddenly Playing Catch-Up, Garden Becomes Lush, Dense, Runaway Forest of Life

As noted, weird timing and overplanting have shown up in an amazing bounty of plants. Choosing which plants to thin has become challenging, including finding where to properly pull them. Seedlings, particularly the many many Thai and Cinnamon Basil plants are harvested whole to make room for the other plants.

A new feature of the garden are potatoes! Started in a leftover straw bale from two seasons ago planted with two kinds of  potatoes (Desiree, a small red variety and Yukon Gold, which are perfect for mashing), the eyes began growing stems like wildfire. Keeping much of growing leaves buried is key so healthy potatoes form under the soil. But these out of control plants needed their own temporary bin, leftover wood tied together with nylon twine and surrounding the bale as soil and compost gets repeatedly piled on top. We’ll keep you posted on our experiment when we cut the twine in the fall and dig through this rich soil to see if there are potatoes under there.

Potato bin going gangbusters
Another view of the potato bin
Four-year-old sage plant spreading and flowering. Meat recipes are getting fall taste buds ready.
Bee balm before flowers–a major pollinator attractor
Beans and greens (and garlic)
Russian purple tomato plant on the way up
The “summer bed” of peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, three types of basil and zinnia
Lots of herbs amongst the summer plants–basil, thai basil, oregano
Cucumber vine climbing a trellis
Lovage with bee balm flowers peeking through
A modified three sisters–tomatillo, blue corn and yellow bush beans
Cabbage starting to form its head
Fava beans and reflection of garden
Watching over the garden
Sunflowers in the city
Cucumber wall with four kinds of cukes
Cucumber flowers with a baby cuke hiding behind
Martino’s Roma tomato
Large orange heirloom tomatoes, still green
Rainbow cherry tomatoes
That’s Florence Fennel behind the Thai basil. Can’t wait for it to head!
A beautiful mess of herbs and flowers
Lilies against city sidewalk
Memorial bed to Beverly, Campos’ original founder, who died last year.
Chive blossoms
The famous Campos Garden rose bush, with robin’s nest and babies


Look out for our next post–The Pollinators of Campos Garden!


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