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In the Garden monthly
From 2003-2011, Jim Flint wrote a monthly column for Burlington's
Community Newspaper, also known as the North
Avenue News. The column also appeared periodically in the
Colchester Sun, Essex
Reporter, and Shelburne News. Gardener's
Supply generously sponsored the garden column. Jim's 2009
columns are reprinted below; the
columns for 2008, 2010, and 2011 are available via the sidebar
Coming home from church the Sunday before Thanksgiving, my wife Barb
and I stopped by the Community Teaching Garden at Ethan Allen
Homestead. We hadn’t been to the garden for more than a month, and the
experience brought back many fond memories, like a visit to an old
For the past seven years, I’ve served as
teacher for the Community Teaching Garden course. Through the 22-week
program, more than 100 adults in the Burlington area have learned how
to successfully grow fresh produce organically, using basic hand tools
and centuries old skills.
The course begins each spring with participants gently turning over
their compost-enriched raised beds. Before planting, each bed is marked
off into four sections that are rotated from year to year with
different crops. In early June, students pick their first greens. By
mid summer, the fertile beds yield a colorful diversity of delicious
produce to enjoy with family and friends.
As an educator, my twin mantras for a successful garden are commitment
and love. Weather conditions always vary, yet if a person truly cares
about the garden and devotes time faithfully, nature will provide the
rest. Skills and knowledge are learned along the way by simply
nurturing the plants, from seed to flower to fruit.
With winter on the doorstep, the staff and board of Friends of
Burlington Gardens are working to raise the financial support needed to
establish new gardens in 2010. During the next few months, our staff
will assist community garden organizers, neighborhood groups, and
schools, locally and statewide, who are eager to grow fresh local
produce and encourage healthy lifestyles.
During the past eight years, FBG has expanded its work and mission
through the generous contributions of individuals, businesses, groups,
and foundations. A special thank you goes to Gardener’s Supply Company
for sponsoring our monthly garden column, and to Burlington’s Community
Newspaper, the North Avenue News, for providing space each month.
FBG’s 2010 Annual Fund Campaign began December 1st, with the goal of
raising $15,000 to support community and school gardening in the
Burlington area and across Vermont. To make a tax deductible donation,
please call the FBG office at 861-4769, or contribute online at
www.burlingtongardens.org. Thank you to all, and best wishes for a
happy New Year!
its modest beginning in 2001 to help build and strengthen community
gardening in Burlington, Friends of Burlington Gardens has steadily
branched out locally and statewide to provide technical assistance and
material support for more than 180 community, school, and neighborhood
gardens. The growth has been made possible through the generous
contributions of individual donors, businesses, foundations, community
partners, and dozens of volunteers.
FBG prepares for 2010, we are pleased to announce the hiring of Jenn
McGowan as a full time staff member. A Rhode Island native, Jenn has
lived and worked in Burlington since 2002 and is a graduate of Clark
University in Worcester, MA.
In her new position with FBG, Jenn will serve as program director
for the Healthy City Youth Initiative to expand school gardening and
farm-to-school activities across the city of Burlington.
the HCYI, students will be actively engaged through field trips to
local farms, taste tests at summer lunch sites, and garden-based
nutrition activities. Staff and interns will guide students in
developing a positive work ethic, communication skills and personal
responsibility, while cultivating a stronger connection to the natural
the core of the new initiative, the Healthy City Youth Farm will be
established in spring 2010 on a half acre site behind Hunt Middle
School. The Youth Farm plan includes multiple raised beds where
students and community volunteers work side-by-side growing fresh
organic produce for summer lunch programs and fall salad bars. Initial
details are available at
Healthy City Youth Initiative evolved from the Intervale Center’s
Healthy City Program, which has provided more than 200 at-risk youths,
ages 13 to 16, with summer employment and life skills training since
its founding in 2002. As director, Jenn and the Healthy City staff
worked to cultivate a community of teens and adults dedicated to
growing fresh nutritious vegetables.
help fund the Healthy City Youth Initiative, Friends of Burlington
Gardens has received a $25,000 bridge grant from the A.D. Henderson
Foundation and a $20,000 two year grant from the Canaday Family
Charitable Trust. The funding supports FBG’s partnership with the
Burlington School Food Project and underlies the growth and
sustainability of Healthy City as a resource for Burlington and a model
for other communities to emulate.
learn how you can support the new youth initiative, please contact Jenn
at 861-4769 or jenn<at>burlingtongardens.org.
Summer’s finale on September 20 brought a stunningly beautiful day to
Vermont. After a night time low of 37 degrees, afternoon temperatures
warmed to near 70 with brilliant sunshine, low humidity, a light
breeze, and barely a cloud in the sky.
Donning light jackets, my wife Barb and I headed out that Sunday
morning for a scenic drive across the Green Mountains to the 138th
Annual Tunbridge World’s Fair. Less than two hours later, we came
around a gentle bend in Route 110 to see the fairgrounds nestled in a
verdant valley overlooked by green hills rising above the
Norwich University cadets in their crisp
fatigues quickly ushered us to a parking spot near the fair entrance.
Our tickets purchased, we stepped through the well worn gates into an
amazing setting that mixed three centuries of Vermont rural life.
For the next six hours, we sampled the sites, smells, sounds, and
tastes of the exposition which has operated in its current location
since 1875. Wandering through the exhibits on Antique Hill, we saw
history come alive as reenactors pounded molten iron in the blacksmith
shop, hewed logs into barn timbers, and pressed sweet apple cider.
The fair’s 19th century Floral Hall and Gilman Building showcased a
cornucopia of flowers and vegetables. Children are especially
encouraged to participate and develop their creativity. Judges are kind
and fair, helping youths to learn through experience the skills of
exhibiting their prize animals, crops, photography, and home crafts.
In the event tent, the Ed Larkin Contra Dancers moved gracefully across
the stage to an old time fiddle melody. Troupe members have performed
at the fair for more than 75 years in their trademark top hats and
tails for the gentlemen, and period dresses for the ladies. From the
dancers, we moved on to the grandstand to savor ice cream cones while
listening to Avi and Celia, a duo mixing bluegrass, rock and roll, and
As afternoon shadows began to fall, Barb and I strolled around the
midway one more time and through the livestock barns. Knowing that my
camera battery was fading, I looked for a scene to capture the feeling
of the fair in its last hours. Pausing near the Floral Hall, I waited
for a long moment, clicked the shutter, and took home a lasting memory
of Tunbridge to keep and share.
Watching a group of children skip happily to school on a beautiful
September day, I realized that for the first time since 1994, our
family is without a student diligently plying their way through the
local educational system. My wife Barb and I have suddenly become
“empty nesters” with two offspring living miles away at their
Our house is much quieter these days. In the absence of a hungry horde
to feed, meal preparation has slowed to a gentler pace. As the growing
season culminates, there’s a little extra time to savor tender ears of
freshly picked sweet corn on the last few fleeting summer evenings.
Looking ahead, I feel confident that the hours spent gardening and
sitting down together for family meals have prepared our children well
to make healthy choices in life. A child’s ability to learn and
concentrate depends on the foods they eat, and I am grateful that many
area schools are committed to increasing the amount of locally grown
produce served in their cafeterias.
schools are even experimenting with growing fresh vegetables on site.
At Burlington High School, 34 students in the Summer Transitions
Program partnered with Friends of Burlington Gardens staff to create a
new 1,000 square foot organic garden. During June and July, the youths
worked with Americorps member Matt Tucker and student garden ambassador
Ben Baker to maintain the school gardens and harvest the produce.
The students sampled garden vegetables and took home fresh herbs,
broccoli, peppers, onions, garlic, potatoes, and Swiss chard. The
produce was also enjoyed in the salad bar at BHS and during hands-on
nutrition lessons. Students developed a sense of accomplishment through
harvesting, cooking, and eating the delicious food grown on their
During the course of the summer, student attitudes toward gardening
changed dramatically. By the end of the program, one student who had
refused at first to help with garden tasks ended up requesting to work
in the garden. As the diversity of produce increased, students became
more comfortable trying new foods during the cooking classes.
The Fletcher Allen Community Health Foundation provided a generous
grant to Friends of Burlington Gardens to support the garden-based
nutrition program at Burlington High School. From now through the end
of September, the BHS gardens will continue to provide food and
educational opportunities for students, with new plans already in the
works for 2010.
Jim Flint is the founder and executive director of Friends of
Burlington Gardens. For more information on starting a community or
school garden, please visit the FBG web site at
The Burlington Free Press recently published a series of articles by
Matt Sutkoski reflecting on “lives well lived.” Reading the story of
Doris Anna Hill (1905-2008), I thought of my grandmother Lowry
Winfield, who taught me the essence of what it means to live close to
the Earth. Like Doris, “Granny” derived pleasure and sustenance from
tending a garden filled with vegetables, flowers, birds, and berries.
Her heart beat to the daily rhythm of hard work and an innate desire to
quietly pass on the gift of life to others.
the 2009 gardening season is far from over, this year’s unusual weather
patterns serve as a reminder that growing your own fresh food is rarely
predictable. After an excellent March for maple sugaring, April brought
abundant sunshine instead of showers. May was slow to warm up, leading
to a long bloom time for flowering bulbs. June and July brought nearly
daily precipitation, overcast skies, and average highs in the 70s
rather than 80s.
plus side, early season crops fared well, with harvests of
spinach, lettuce, and peas extending past mid July. Beets and carrots
reveled in the moist soil, and broccoli loved the relatively constant
temperatures. For local food foragers, service berries were plump,
sweet, and free for the picking in late June and early July, followed
by a bumper crop of blackcaps.
As I write
on August 1, the cloud of Late Blight hangs over Vermont. By
the time you read this missive, I expect that many local tomato
plants will have succumbed to the fungal disease, which last appeared
in area gardens at the end of August 1998. The potato crop is also in
trouble if Late Blight spores inoculate the tubers in the
seed potatoes infected with Late Blight spread the pathogen to
rotting about 75% of the local crop. In 2009 the disease is said to
with infected tomato transplants grown out of state and sold in big box
stores. Aided by heavy rainfall, cool weather, and billions of airborne
spores, the epidemic has spread exponentially throughout the
Despite disappointments, the harvest season will go on and challenge us
to enjoy and celebrate alternative crops in place of old standbys. In
this spirit, Friends of Burlington Gardens will host its third annual
“Corn Roast and Veggie Ball at Ethan Allen Homestead on Sunday, August
23 from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Up to 90 tickets are available for this event, which includes a
vegetarian buffet, seasonal desserts, and a tour of the beautiful
community gardens at the Winooski Valley Park District site. After a
delectable dinner, Jenni Johnson and Friends will jazz up the night
with live music and dancing under the stars.
Advance tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for children when purchased
by August 19, or $25 and $15 respectively on the day of the event.
Please call the FBG office at 861-4769, visit www.burlingtongardens.org,
or email firstname.lastname@example.org to
reserve tickets. We hope to see you at this tasty and fun event to
support community gardening!
township of Hebron, New York lies just across the border from Pawlet
and Rupert Vermont. With scattered farms, a general store, and 56
square miles of upland meadows, woodland ridges, and fertile
bottomlands, Hebron is home to a population of 1800 residents dispersed
among six hamlets and miles of picturesque back roads.
I grew up happily on a 140 acre farmstead midway between West Hebron
and North Hebron. Like most rural residents, our family maintained a
large garden. My dad enjoyed getting up early in the morning to hoe the
100 foot long rows of bush beans, sweet corn, potatoes, and tomatoes
that spanned the gently sloping hillside below our house.
our garden in mid April and had everything planted by the end of May.
The harvest peak came in late August, just in time for the Washington
County Fair where I proudly brought my entries to compete for blue
ribbons. By first frost in September, the bulk of our winter vegetable
supply was canned, frozen, or stored in the cool cellar.
My father believed in planting most crops by seed. The only transplants
he purchased were tomatoes, and typically just one variety, Jet Star.
He staked the plants three feet apart, mulched the soil with lawn
clippings to reduce disease, and pruned off suckers to yield more
fruit. After a stint in the army during WWII, and a career as an
agricultural teacher and school principal, it was easy to understand
his orderly pattern for our garden.
Two miles down the road, Harold and Mabel Worthington tended a
menagerie of farm animals at a rustic old homestead surrounded with
implements from days gone by. The Worthington’s style of gardening was
quite intriguing to me, as each year during June a full plot of
vegetable plants would magically appear in their yard.
With Yankee resourcefulness, Harold and Mabel visited local garden
centers at the tail end of the spring season, when vegetable plants
were overflowing from their pots and heavily discounted. Gently
transferred to the warm soil of their garden, the plants adapted
quickly and went on to produce an abundant harvest.
If you thought about starting a garden this spring, but found yourself
too busy, perhaps it’s not too late to use the Worthington’s approach.
All you need is a shovel to turn over a small patch of lawn, a spirit
of adventure, and the last plants from your local greenhouse.
Until next time, happy gardening to all!
time growing sweet potatoes was in the mid 1990s while working with the
Gardening Association. In preparing a demonstration for an indoor
gardening workshop, I suspended an organic sweet potato in a jar of
water, placed the container on a windowsill, and waited to see what
three weeks, small roots appeared from the suspended sweet potato,
followed by the emergence of green buds. The
shoots soon sprouted leaves and grew vertically. At four inches of
height, I cut slips from the young vines and rooted
them in water. After a few days, the cuttings were transplanted into
pots of soil mix for additional propagation.
sweet potato yielded a dozen or more slips, which were transplanted
into our family’s community garden plot in early June. As summer turned
to fall, the energy in the vines was stored as sugar and starch in the
swollen roots. Just before the first frost, we set out with shovels to
unearth the buried treasure. Imagine our children’s surprise to
discover sweet potatoes ranging from thumb sized to nearly five pounds.
The sweet potatoes stored well, and we set aside a portion of the crop
each year to start new plants. From 2004 through 2006, our extra
cuttings were sold at the Friends of Burlington Gardens Spring Plant
Sale. The sweet potatoes were a big hit, and to keep pace with demand
we turned to a southern grower that could provide slips in bulk
Red Wagon Plants and Friends of Burlington Gardens are partnering to
present the Champlain Valley Sweet Potato Slip Sale on Saturday, June 6
and Sunday, June 7 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily or while supplies last.
The benefit sale will be held at the Red Wagon Plants greenhouse
facility at 2408 Shelburne Falls Road in Hinesburg.
More than 1600 Beauregard sweet potato slips are available, with 100%
of proceeds used to support garden-based education programs. Each slip
can produce a fall harvest of up to six sweet potatoes with garnet
colored skin and delicious orange flesh. The slips are potted, hardened
off, and ready for transplanting in home, school, and community
For driving directions to the Sweet Potato Slip Sale and more
information about growing sweet potatoes in Vermont, please visit http://www.burlingtongardens.org/sweet_potato_sale.html
During April vacation, Barb and I found
ourselves with an empty nest for the first time in many years. With
Alison in college, Jon on a senior high youth trip, and a busy
gardening season ahead, we knew that this was our golden opportunity
for a grand but affordable adventure.
For several weeks, we pondered whether to stay close to home or wander
afield. We looked at flying to somewhere warm, but the expense of
airfare and hotels was beyond our budget. Then out of the blue, my
sister Nancy graciously invited us to stay in the one room coop
apartment she uses for business trips to Washington D.C.
Checking with Amtrak, we learned that “The Vermonter” leaves Essex
Junction at 9:00 a.m. and arrives at Union Station at 10:30 p.m. With
the click of a mouse, we purchased tickets for our April 20th scenic
journey across the Green Mountains, down the Connecticut River Valley,
and on to New York City and points south.
Vermont portion of the trip took us past
waterfalls, farm fields, quiet villages, and freshly tilled backyard
gardens. In Springfield Massachusetts, the train picked up speed with a
switch to electric rails. Arriving in Washington, we transferred to the
Metro for the short ride to my sister’s neighborhood near Dupont
Over the next three days we enjoyed visiting the American Indian
Museum, National Gallery of Art, U.S. Botanic Garden, and the
Washington Zoo, all of which are free admission. We walked miles taking
in the beauty of bursting flowers and trees clothed in spring
green. The Capitol building -- April 21, 2009
Day, we attended the dedication of “The People’s Garden,” a sustainable
landscape located in front of the USDA headquarters. Framed with sturdy
timbers, the garden’s organic raised beds are constructed of local oak
and locust trees felled by storms.
Following the ceremony, I had the opportunity to talk briefly with
Deputy Secretary of
Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan and share the work that Vermonters are
doing to connect communities and schools through gardening.
Deputy USDA Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, speaks at the opening of The
People’s Garden at USDA heaquarters in Washington, D.C. Looking
on are Brings Plenty, Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and
Dawn Charging, USDA Director of Native American Programs. -- April 22,
final evening in Washington, Barb and I walked from the Metro
Center station to the grounds of the White House.
Looking across the
South Lawn, we were inspired to see the new vegetable garden planted by
Michelle Obama and local school children—and hopeful for the example
set by our nation’s leaders in growing fresh healthy food.
The Obama's new vegetable garden on the South Lawn of the White House
April 23, 2009
Looking out across the backyard, I often
think about my neighbors, Ken and Christine Hebert. Like my parents,
the Heberts are members of the “Greatest Generation” who came of age
during the Depression Era, survived World War II, and gave birth to the
baby boom of the 1950s.
When Ken and Christine were growing up, Burlington’s “New North End”
was a patchwork of fields and woodlots. Scattered farm houses, mom and
pop stores, and filling stations lined the narrow road heading north
from downtown. Ken’s family lived just off North Avenue, next to where
the Short Stop now stands, while Christine’s parents ran Charlie’s Boat
House at the mouth of the Winooski River.
Ken returned from the army in 1947 and
married Christine in 1949. During the next two years, they built a
sturdy home on a parcel of land once owned by
Ken’s parents. Ken dug the basement by hand, poured the footings, and
block by block built the foundation and walls of the house. Christine
remembers baking “a pie a day” to restock his energy supply.
The first of three Hebert children was soon on the way. It was time for
Ken and Christine to settle in and feed a growing family. Ken cut down
trees from a section of their yard and pulled out stumps with a pickup
truck. His work created a large vegetable garden – a place to grow
where Ken has found harmony and
peace for nearly sixty
Ken’s garden flourishes because he replenishes the soil. His compost
pile slowly turns kitchen trimmings into rich organic matter, while
leaves are shredded and tilled back into the fertile ground. Ashes from
the Hebert’s wood stove are spread on the plot to add minerals, and an
occasional load of manure provides a boost of natural fertilizer.
Whether tending a home garden or a community plot, there is much to
learn from Ken’s example of treading gently on the Earth. When Ken
enriches the land in the fall, he does so in faith, anticipating that
he will garden again the following spring. He plants, waters, and
cultivates, and the garden yields its harvest of fresh affordable food.
It’s not hard to see that Ken and Christine’s health and vigor are a
testament to this simple power of sustainable living.
This spring marks the 23rd year that my
wife Barb and I have community gardened in Burlington. Beginning as newlyweds, we’ve grown
fresh food side-by-side with fellow gardeners of diverse ages,
cultures, and backgrounds. The seasons of planting and weeding have
come and gone, yet some of the moments remembered best are when we
paused from our
labors to appreciate the beauty of a garden sunset, a fleeting rainbow,
or the life of a faithful friend.
On February 1, Frank Way of South Burlington died at the Starr Farm
Nursing Center after a courageous battle with cancer. With his wife
June at his side, Frank was an avid community gardener at Starr Farm
during the 1990s. He and June raised bushels of cucumbers, potatoes,
and Blue Hubbard squash, which they loved to share with others.
lifelong Vermonter, Frank graduated from the UVM College of Agriculture
and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean Conflict. He returned to
Vermont after the war to work as a County 4-H Extension Agent. During
the last thirty years of his career, Frank traveled throughout the
state as a food service inspector with the Vermont Department of Health.
By request of Frank’s family, Friends of Burlington Gardens has
established the Frank Watson Way
Memorial Scholarship Fund to support the Community
Teaching Garden at Ethan Allen Homestead. Thanks to the generosity of
friends and neighbors, more than a thousand dollars has already been
raised to provide scholarships for limited income participants in the
20-week educational program.
The Community Teaching Garden is open to anyone in the Burlington area
who has a sincere desire and commitment to learn how to garden
organically, and to share their new skills with others. To make a
contribution to the scholarship fund, learn more about the teaching
garden program, or download an application form, please visit
www.burlingtongardens.org or call me at the Friends of Burlington
Gardens office at 861-4769.
With Groundhog Day signaling
winter’s midpoint, February is an ideal time to chase away cabin fever
blues by planning ahead for spring and summer gardening.
Across Vermont, community
gardens provide fertile settings where self-sufficiency and
interdependence thrive. In Burlington, more than 2,000 city residents
enjoy the fresh affordable produce grown at eleven Burlington Area
Community Garden sites.
Parks and Recreation automatically mails a registration form to each
household that enrolled in the BACG program in 2008 and maintained
their garden plot in good condition. Returning BACG gardeners are wise
to register early, as each year a few gardeners overlook the deadline
and learn that plots at their site are already filled.
caption: Bart and Kate Westdijk grew fresh food and friendships as
participants in the 2008 New Discovery Garden at Ethan Allen Homestead.
Choosing the appropriate size BACG garden plot helps to maximize yields
and save work. A full plot is approximately 25 ft. x 25 ft. and can
produce enough fresh vegetables to feed a household of four people. But
if poorly cared for, a 625 square foot plot can easily become overcome
by weeds and draw the ire of fellow gardeners.
smaller households, half plots are offered at most BACG sites, while
novice/family friendly plots are available at the New Discovery Garden,
Starr Farm, Baird Park, Champlain, and Myrtle Street sites. The 2009
fee for a full plot is $55, half plots are $37, and novice/family
friendly plots are $20. BACG scholarships covering a portion of the
plot fee are available for limited income gardeners.
registration forms are available at the Parks and Recreation office at
645 Pine Street, on the web at www.enjoyburlington.com,
or by calling
BACG coordinator Lisa Coven at 863-0420. New gardeners are assigned to
garden sites based on their registration date. With demand high, the
nearly 400 BACG plots are expected to fill up by early April.
gardening at home or in a community plot, the season can be extended by
raising a diversity of vegetables from seeds and transplants. Gardeners
are encouraged to follow instructions on seed packets and avoid
crowding crops. Plants are more productive and disease resistant when
they have room to spread out leafy foliage and absorb energy from the
preparation for Town Meeting Day, Friends of Burlington Gardens has
surveyed Burlington’s four mayoral candidates on issues of potential
interest to supporters of community, school, and neighborhood
gardening. A link to the survey responses is posted on the FBG web site
thanks to Bob Kiss, Andy Montroll, Dan Smith, and Kurt Wright for their
participation in the survey, and good luck to all the candidates!
Growing up on a homestead in Salem, Indiana, Lowry was the fourth of
six children born to John Baynes and Ella Batt Baynes between 1889 and
1902. In 1903, John died of a heart attack, leaving a young family to
keep crops growing, animals cared for, and food on the table. Possessed
with an iron will and a stern hand, Ella persevered and remained on the
farm until her death in 1959.
After completing high school, Lowry moved to Louisville, Kentucky,
where she took nursing classes and cared for soldiers returning from
World War I. In 1918 she married Frank Curtis, who died a year later.
Searching for a new life, Lowry took the train east to New York. She
married Charles Winfield in 1920, who was 17 years her senior.
Charles was a field boss on a fruit and vegetable farm in the Hudson
Valley. My mother, Florence Winfield Flint, was born in 1924 and
remembers picking in the fields with her older brother Charlie. They
lived on the farm, but in the early 1930s her father lost his position,
and the family moved into a small house in the village of Marlboro.
My grandfather worked as a church custodian, while Granny found jobs
wherever she could. In the backyard of their home, she grew fresh
vegetables and roses. Like many Depression families, a pot of soup on
the cook stove was the norm for meals.
struck when my grandmother broke her pelvis in a car accident and was
told she would never walk again. Working through the pain, Granny
strengthened herself by using a pull up bar suspended over her bed. Her
inner will to succeed passed down, spurring my mother to attend college
in Plattsburgh and become a home economics teacher.
Granny lived with my family when I was growing up, always making
herself useful. She was devoted to organic gardening and spaded our
large garden plot by hand. After her leg was amputated in 1970, she
refused a wheel chair, preferring to use her arms to “walk” to our
flower beds, where she was at home among the plants and birds. And
though she died some twenty years ago, I often still feel her presence
with me “in the garden.”
Until next time, pleasant garden memories to all.