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Spring sprang early

Spring sprang early

Created date

May 22nd, 2012

In late February, Edith Dombal already had garden-fresh vegetables and colorful blooms on her mind. This winter s unusually warm, spring-like weather had bulbs popping out of the earth early and had gardeners salivating for planting time. It s finally here! As garden club president for Cedar Crest, the Erickson Living community in Pompton Plains, N.J., Edith manages the community s 110 8- by 8-foot gardens. She coordinates with general services to prep the area in spring before her fellow gardeners take over. This month, the community garden area is abuzz with activity. Garden enthusiasts plant vegetables, flowers, and herbs, creating a colorful collage for the whole community to enjoy.

Colorful variety

The garden club gives people who are gardeners a place to plant, show off their talents, and it s a place of exercise, Edith says. She s been club president for the past two years, having moved to the community from nearby Pompton Lakes a year earlier. Edith says most club members are lifelong gardeners and are satisfied with the space provided free from the community. People here tend to be great gardeners, says Joann Knapp, a horticulturist and alpine gardener who moved to Cedar Crest in 2007 with her husband Fred. No matter what anyone s capacity is, not one person in the garden is unhappy. There is something about being out there in the dirt and the sunshine that is very therapeutic. The rest of the community enjoys the area too. It s a lovely place when it s all in bloom, Edith says. It s a place to meditate and look at birds and butterflies. Everybody has their own artsy way to display their garden. For example, the Knapps display a colorful and unique rock garden, consisting of rhododendrons, azaleas, and other low-growing perennials. Edith also plants perennials so I don t have to keep planting throughout the season, she says. I add in some annuals for color. Other gardeners plant edibles like tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, and herbs. It s an even split between those who grow vegetables and those who grow flowers, Edith says.

Ample space

The gardens smaller size doesn t limit their bounty. Since 2008, gardener Ben Longo has wowed his neighbors with mammoth zucchini. His giant squash, measuring 68 inches, earned him the title zucchini man. Another zuke he grew weighed in at a whopping 30 pounds. For Edith, the smaller space helps limit maintenance without hindering enjoyment and production. It s just the right size. Compared to what I had at my house, I really love it, she says. I consider the entire garden area as my garden; I just don t have to take care of it all. That s the beauty of a community garden, Edith adds. Gardeners help each other, share, and enjoy each other s gardens. Additionally, they get a hand from Ted Thiessen, head groundskeeper at Cedar Crest. He and his team really help a lot, Edith says. They clean up the gardens and paths at the start of every season. And this year, they ve installed a new fence to keep out critters like deer and rabbits.

Community gardening

Though they don t like sharing their gardens with furry critters, they love sharing amongst themselves. Gardening gives me something to look forward to, Ben says, but the best part is that you get to share what you grow with your friends. Throughout the season, which runs April to September, the garden club hosts speakers, including the Knapps, who discuss perennials and butterflies. And many club members sell their plants at the annual Fruits of Our Labor sale, which benefits a campus charity. Finally, in August, the club hosts a brunch with harvested vegetables and champagne. It s a big hit, says Edith.

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