How Do the Gardens Grow at PPH?

At PPH, gardening is a time of fellowship and sharing. (And of course, delicious eating, especially in the summer months!) Today a longtime resident gardener shares her favorite tips and tricks for a thriving crop. Since she moved into PPH in 2017, she has had plots in both the Lawndale Manor vegetable garden and the Magee Street vegetable garden.

Raised beds in the Lawndale Manor garden were just installed this year. The Magee Street garden also features raised beds. Both gardens also contain benches to sit on and admire the colorful blooms and veggies, are enclosed by a fence, and are equipped with hoses and large storage containers to hold tools. How to gain ownership of one of these prized plots? You must give your request in writing. But once you have a garden, it is yours for as long as you want it.

Not Your Garden-Variety Crops

It’s amazing how many types of plants the PPH gardeners grow. “Everyone has total freedom to put in whatever they want,” our gardener said.

“One gardener puts in variegated pink roses, a lot of us have planted zinnias, and someone grows dahlias,” she said. During the summer months, there’s an abundance of vegetables popping up — and already being eaten, like Easter egg radishes in an array of gorgeous colors.

The most popular veggies to plant? Cucumbers, peppers, and tomatoes. But there are also string beans, peas, eggplants, radishes, lettuce, spinach, carrots, and all kinds of spices, including parsley, dill, mint, lavender, basil, and chives. And someone even grows potatoes!

Then, of course, there are the unsolved mysteries of nature. “I put beets in but they didn’t come up, so I don’t know what that was all about,” she says.

The Contest for the First Tomato

“I think I’m the only one that has eaten tomatoes already,” said this gardening devotee. “I personally ate the first four tomatoes already.” It came from a childhood tradition.
“I only lived a mile from here growing up, and the neighbors had a contest to see who would get the first tomato.” Her avid desire to grow tomatoes — and every other crop under the sun — continues today.

Nature’s Mosquito Repellent

In fact, this resident loves growing things so much, that her garden has spilled over into her apartment. “Even on my windowsill here, I have mint, chives, basil, and rosemary,” she says. “This whole apartment is one big green thing.” One of the most useful plants she grows is a citronella plant, also known as a mosquito geranium, which she originally bought from the PPH greenhouse because she is a self-described “mosquito magnet.” She has three plants in her apartment, one on each windowsill, to dissuade the biting insects from flying in.

Planting for the Butterflies

Not all gardens are planted to feed humans. There is one PPH gardener who plants milkweed to feed the monarch butterflies, because that’s what they love to eat, and she adores their beautiful presence. Once one crop is finished, she faithfully saves the seeds to plant the next year.

Give and Take, Donate and Eat

Both gardens have a reciprocal relationship with the PPH greenhouse, where volunteers grow plants from seed. “This year, I bought most of my plants from PPH at a very reasonable price,” said this resident gardener. Selections included Fourth of July and yellow pear tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, and more. People donate their plants for cuttings. Best of all, when there’s an overabundance of harvest, people will go to the greenhouse plant room and leave their veggies there for others to enjoy.

How do you make sure that your garden has an abundance to share? Follow these expert tips and tricks.

Tips From a Green Thumb

  1. It’s all about the soil. “My soil this year is excellent, because I put so many things in it, including eggshell solution.”
  2. Sprinkle red pepper around plants to keep squirrels away. “Squirrels come in for a bite, and once they lick the red pepper, they decide they don’t want to be bothered.”
  3. Plant flowers in between your rows. “The flowers draw the good bugs to fertilize your tomatoes and beans.”
  4. Make those flowers marigolds. “Marigolds repel pests … I think the smell keeps them away.”
  5. Weed frequently. “You can’t leave weeds. They suck out the nourishment for whatever plants you are growing.

The best tip of all? Enjoy!

“I like to go out in the garden and sit there and enjoy nature. It is kind of like an oasis in the city,” this resident grower said.

Here’s to savoring the bounty — and the beauty — of the harvest at PPH.