Cold Spring community garden grows fast

By Pamela Doan

Philipstown has a lot of treasures when it comes to gardening. Public gardens like Stonecrop, Manitoga and Boscobel; growing fresh vegetables in school with students; organizations devoted to education and information sharing like the Master Gardeners and the Philipstown Garden Club, and many committed and passionate gardeners. Recently, I learned about another treasure that I didn’t expect to find in our mixture of rural, suburban and small town living — a local community garden in Cold Spring.

What if you had a little plot where you could raise vegetables and flowers this summer that came with good soil, compost, water and ample sunshine for a very reasonable and affordable cost? All you have to do is clear off some of last season’s leftovers, plant it and tend it for the summer. In addition, you get a fantastic view of the Highlands and the community of a lovely group of people.

There is such an opportunity. Up on Lane Gate Road, Elizabeth Healy, a long-time Cold Spring progressive and resident, has set aside about an acre of her property for 30 garden plots. Miriam Wagner and her husband Eric were part of the original garden founders and have raised vegetables and flowers there since 2009.

The Wagners and Healy were friends from the Philipstown Garden Club. Healy was a past president, and Miriam has been involved for many years. It all came about from a conversation between Miriam and Healy when Miriam mentioned her disappointment at not having enough sunlight among all the trees in her Garrison yard for a vegetable garden.  Healy suggested they start a community garden in her yard using the site of her family home’s original garden plot dating back to the late 19th century.

Miriam Wagner at the community garden (photo by P. Doan)  
Miriam Wagner at the community garden (photo by P. Doan)

Along with JoAnn and Kirby Brown, the Wagners and Healy mapped out the plots and started inviting gardeners to participate, and it’s still going strong seven years later. The plots are 10’ x 10’ or 10’ x 20’ and cost $30 and $50 respectively for the season. There’s a hose for watering, ample sunlight, composted horse manure and the crucial fence to keep out deer, rabbits and groundhogs.

During a tour, Miriam Wagner had a story and warm words for the efforts of the gardener in every plot. One grows “beautiful onions and peas.” She admired the zinnias and broccoli of another; the fabulous tomatoes and hollyhocks adjacent.

After describing the sunset cosmos flowers in one plot, she filled my hand with dried seeds from the remaining stalk and gave me instructions for how to plant them.

Her enjoyment in tending her own plot and the entire project is inspiring. Personally, she likes to plant flowers along with vegetables. “Eric didn’t approve of it so we separated our plots,” she said. “He only grows vegetables. I love California poppies and Shirley poppies. They look like little fairy wings.”

She also grows dahlias in another corner of the garden and already has her tubers bought and in pots at home, ready to be transplanted when it gets warmer. She sowed sugar peas and sweet pea seeds recently, thrilled that the pace of spring let her get an early start. I remarked that flowers were a good mix to attract pollinators. She said, “Everyone’s big into pollinators. The world’s falling apart; we have to do what we can.”

Although only a couple of the plots showed activity yet, it was easy to see how many different approaches to gardening were in play. Each plot showed evidence of a personality, a style and approach. One plot had an elaborate wood structure built as support for tomatoes. Another was covered with wood chip mulch. Bits of newspaper poking through the soil represented another way of mulching and one plot was completely covered by black landscape fabric with circles cut out for plants. Stalks of rosemary, sage, chives and oregano poked through.

Twelve plots are available for the season. There are a few rules, Miriam Wagner explained: “Organic methods for bug control; no woody purchased mulch; no animals (pet dogs or cats); locking garden gate securely to prevent unwelcome wild creatures; turn off garden hose securely so as not to waste water from Mrs. Healy’s well. I recommend bringing your own hoe, cultivator and spading fork. Also, people need to maintain their garden plot. Cultivation of the soil, weed removal as necessary and happy vigilance will make a garden grow ‘inch by inch and row by row.’ ” Children are welcome.

Anyone interested in space at the community garden can contact Miriam Wagner at [email protected]. And that view? One of the best I’ve seen in the area. From the ridge you can see the village laid out below, the river, and the mountains across the way. Just for that, it’s worth tending some vegetables for the summer.

Behind The Story

Type: Opinion

Opinion: Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.

Doan, who resides in Philipstown, has been writing for The Current since 2013. She edits the weekly calendar and writes the gardening column. Location: Philipstown. Languages: English. Areas of expertise: Gardening, environment