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Garden Plotting: For Your Martha Stewart Recipes & the Local Food Pantry Alike

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Some of the harvest (Photo courtesy Gary Oppenheimer)
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Last year I traveled to Washington DC for the People's Garden Summit. Nothing odd in that: school bureaucrat on a trip to the nation's capitol to meet with federal bureaucrat and talk about "bureaucrat things." I was going on behalf of my school groups and the National Gardening Association, a great group that gets kids all across the country outside and in the garden. Great right? But what makes this unusual is that the second leg of my flight from Philly to DC - canceled. #SNOWMAGEDDON 2010 had descended upon the Eastern seaboard and flights between east coast cities were nixed.One quick phone call to my DC peeps with reassurances that "It's going to be a great conference, everyone is gonna' be there," and I'm thinking that I'll find "a way." 28 hours of John Candy-flavored planes-train-and-metro'ing later, I pop up at the conference hotel and bunker in for 4 days of day-long happy hour at hotel bars, cabinet secretary-ness and garden bureaucrat bliss.

300 people had been scheduled for this event. Then blizzard. Then 3 feet of snow in a city with just 3 snow plows. Of the 30 eventual attendees one was none other than my friend Gary Oppenheimer, Executive Director of Ample Harvest. I actually saw Gary on TV before I met him. "Who's that jackass on cross-country skis going down K street?" I asked while watching the hotel TV. That tenacious jack ass (only my getting on a partially-canceled cross country flight blindly counting on Amtrak to finish the trip makes me a bigger jack ass) had driven from New Jersey, and stayed at a hotel across town. But like many of my friends, resourceful do-gooders, Gary packed his cross country skis in his car. Voila, conference attendee makes evening news in the nation's Capitol for the image of his red Patagonia clad butt deftly sliding across the all but abandoned Hill district.

Gardeners, you see, tenacity is a trait necessary for success. As I hold your virtual, PBR-holdin' hand via this little series of garden exchanges, you will learn by example. Blizzard, pfft! We laugh at these little "acts of God."

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Giant veggies! Photo courtesy Gary Oppenheimer
Oddly, Gary's "day job" is as the executive director of an awesome non-profit Ample Harvest. It's a little bit of God's actual work. They connect growers and gardeners alike with food pantry via their awesome (not an overused word here, mos def) website. http://www.ampleharvest.org/ The deal: those extra zucchinis I warned you about planting are just the thing for a food bank like Mend or SOVA. Donating you garden's excess will not just be a necessity, but is one of the cooler reasons why gardens rock.Glean from Mr. Oppenheimer's 2010 Garden Plotting. Gary has his Jersey garden in three sections, as he explains:


1. An orchard I planted in 2009 with 19 fruit trees. Unfortunately, last year, a black bear came through and did serious damage to a number of trees... so the harvest was close to nil. I’m rebuilding the “deer fence” into a “bear fence” in the spring. I do tap several of my maple trees to make maple syrup. This I really cold winter is excellent for getting a lot of sap, so it should be a good year for that. 2. On one side on the house, I have three raised beds... there I grow spinach, broccoli, carrots, lettuce and kohlrabi

3. Lower down on the property is a 20 X 30’ garden that will be doubled in size to about 1,200 sq. feet. I grow several varieties of tomatoes, potatoes (white, Yukon Gold and red), Swiss chard, tomatoes, cukes, acorn squash, spaghetti squash, winter squash, zucchini, peas, beans, figs, eggplant, corn, Aunt Molly’s ground cherries, mint, thyme, parsley, peppers, horse radish, and of course, weeds.

About 50 lbs. last year went to a pantry... the rest we ate or gave away.

You will find that gardening also "lends itself for doing for others" quite well. That's a necessity these days as the number of folks on food stamps has exceeded the populations of Texas and Colorado combined. So taking the words of the recently departed founding director of the Peace Corps,
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Sargent Shriver, to heart and expanding them: It's not what you grow for yourself, it's what you grow for others that matters. Right?

Scheme. Plot. Comment and Discuss. Free invasive weed seeds for the most irritating comment.