Although the weather may not feel like autumn, Garden Educator Jacqui Roytman is preparing fall crops for the Spring Creek Recreational Fund’s (SCRF) Urban Garden Classroom (UGC). Members of Spring Creek Senior Partners’ (SCSP) Gardening Club will be assisting Roytman as she harvests: Yukon Gold potatoes, sweet potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, Malabar spinach, nasturtium (edible flowers), and an assortment of herbs (lavender, thyme, basil, and oregano).
Roytman explained to the seniors that the garden needs to be prepared for the winter season, which means that the last of the summer plants need to harvested, the beds must be weeded, and the soil amended. She assured the senior club that there are still crops to be harvested throughout the rest of October and November. For the autumn season, Roytman will be planting beets, radishes, lettuce, and arugula be-cause these vegetables take about 15 to 21 days to grow. “These are vegetables that can handle the warm to cold weather,” Roytman said.
Since the seniors will be harvesting the last of the summer crops, Roytman taught the group about seed saving (removing viable seeds from plants and storing them in a dry place over the winter). As an example of seed saving, Roytman plucked a vine from the Malabar spinach bed, which has grown in abundance throughout the summer. She showed seniors that entwined with the spinach were small purple, almost berry-like seeds. These small pods hold Malabar spinach seeds. Roytman explained that she will dry the seeds out in the sun and then save them for the spring.
Many of the seniors were excited to learn that they will be harvesting and planting more vegetables this fall. The anticipation for fresh and organically grown food has many of the club members coming prepared with plastic bags for each visit to the UGC. The seniors know that their volunteer work helps to maintain the garden. During each visit their participation in this healthy activity is rewarded with freshly grown plants.
Roytman also discusses ways to maintain herbal plants at home, and advises the gardening club on the best ways to cook these plants. One example is lemongrass, which Roytman suggested that the seniors use this plant as homemade tea. She instructed the seniors to place the lemongrass’ stems into boiling water for five minutes, and then they can strain the stalks, stir in a bit of sugar and serve warm (or refrigerate for an ice cold drink).
The SCSP’s Gardening Club meets every Tuesday from 1pm to 2:30pm. For more information, contact SCSP at 718-348-7620.
Photos by Amanda Moses