Appeal plants at Carson City Community Garden growing, but not gracefully

When I embarked on a Carson City Community Garden project for the Nevada Appeal (where I serve, among other things, as home and garden reporter), my prior experience included stealing ears of corn from fields around West Milton, Ohio; raising an avocado seed in a living room; planting a few herbs in my Carson City patio; and failing to succeed in growing a lucky bamboo.

So perhaps it is understandable that I did not recognize the scope of filling a 4-by-15-foot plot with vegetables. That's 60 square feet of Nevada soil. Admittedly, it had already been plowed, graded, and raked; mulch was freely available; and water and tools were there for the use on Beverly Drive.

So after carefully selecting the vegetables to be planted - based entirely on personal dining tastes - it came time to get down and plant. Already, herbs were sowed in pots on the patio. But for the community garden, actually, what to do? Or which - plants or seeds?

Happily, a reader e-mailed a suggestion about where to buy tomato plants - at the Telegraph Square farmers market, from Sue's Garden. Two lusty plants were bought at $4 each. Advice came with them: buy tomato cages, 54 inches tall.

Next, a trip to Lowe's for tomato cages. No luck, but I did find more tomato plants (not as lusty-looking), a potted pepper plant and a potted eggplant for $2.95 each. Then at Safeway, Greenhouse Garden Center and Albertsons, I bought seed packets of hot peppers, Chinese pea pods, cukes, radishes, etc.

The first trip to the community garden on Beverly was a bit of a disappointment. The plots were all nicely marked off, bounded by string. Names were attached, and the ground had been worked over. But it all looked kind of drab.

Nevertheless, as the utilities say, "dig we must," so we did, using a spade with the shovel at an angle of about 30 degrees. The first two tomato plants went in well, although the bottom leaves got sort of bedraggled. The other tomato plants were smaller and went in easily. The dirt was soft and easy to work. The pepper plants stood up well to planting, the eggplant had big leaves, and all seemed well when watered.

Planting the seeds was another matter. Reading the instructions on the seed packets implied a steady hand in distributing the seeds and covering them with a half-inch of dirt.

So seated with a hand trowel, a small ditch was furrowed and the seeds dropped in - hot peppers, yellow tomatoes (gift seeds from a friend but who knows if they'll sprout), pea pods, cucumbers, etc. Picking out pieces of broken glass and stones interfered with the process, but the location of the plot next to a fence and partially under a tree made it all easier.

A couple I met at the Station Grille while listening to George Hanepen came over and advised me to water the tomato plants at once. "Toughest day of their lives for replanted plants," they said.

Mulch from a giant pile was dispersed over and about the seeds and plants.

After all the seeds were dispersed, the ground smoothed over them and little plastic sticks with plant identities scribbled on and inserted, there was still a lot of wide open dirt. A LOT of dirt.

Well, I still had some seeds left in the paper packages (I'm sure the packets are meant to open in some manner to make planting the seeds easy, but I couldn't figure it out). So it was back to the garden, more furrows, more signposts and lots more water. Actually, it isn't clear if the garden site is odd or even, so I wasn't sure which day to water on. So far, I've alternated, figuring I was right half the time anyhow. (Water police: hey, I'm only kidding!)

Now most of the plot has something in it. So it's just a matter of watering and waiting and meanwhile checking the farmers markets.

But who's going to water the plot while I'm on vacation?


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