WCHI Pantry Garden Article - October, 2023
Contributed by Gwen Herzog, WCHI Pantry Garden Chair
I am writing this article after another busy work night at the WCHI Pantry Garden. Tonight, we picked a bucket of string beans and several tomatoes. We then planted about 100 onion plants and approximately 30 parsley plants. I picked up the onion plants this morning from The Seed Farm located in Vera Cruz. Sam from TSF told me that if we planted them today, in 6 weeks we should be picking scallions for our guests. The parsley also came from TSF last week. We should be able to pick from these plants this fall and again next year. In addition to the parsley, two weeks ago and again last week we planted several varieties of cold tolerant greens, cabbage, and broccoli, all obtained from TSF. All are growing great! We should be able pick and pack greens for our food distributions in October. The cabbage and broccoli will take a little longer. Last week we planted a variety of herb plants also obtained from TSF. We cut, packed, and distributed dill to pantry guests. Two weeks ago and again last week we re-potted some basil plants from TSF and made them available to our guests at the pantry to grow on their windowsills. The take home plants were so popular that we ran out quickly. Our basil plant giveaway has gotten the attention of TSF and Second Harvest. Next year will reveal how they will grow our success.
I want to thank all our community gardeners who have shared their bounty with us. Thanks to all of you, to date, 344.59 pounds of produce have been collected and shared with our WCHI guests and with other, local food pantries through Plant-A-Row. Remember, if you have extra garden produce or herbs you can share, please drop them to RE/MAX Unlimited Real Estate, 1080 Schadt Ave., Whitehall Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Please place items on the table on the right side of the vestibule. You may also call or text me at 610-379-6823 to make other arrangements for drop off or pick up. No amount is too large or too small. Don’t forget, as you empty those plants pre-frost, we can be an outlet for your smaller peppers and green tomatoes.
Here is our year-to-date garden bounty: 373 zucchini, 225 yellow squash, 24 bags of radishes, 221 tomatoes, 179 peppers, 16 bags of red beets, 75 eggplants, 2 tote bags of parsley, 36 ears of corn, 11 bags of dill, and 9 bags of string beans.
In my very first pantry garden article I wrote that the worst day for me, as a gardener, is putting the garden to bed just before the first frost. As the amount of daylight hours get shorter, I am reminded that the time for frost is near. It seems like just last month I couldn’t wait for that first tomato to ripen, but now, at times, I am overwhelmed with tomatoes that are cracked or have been nibbled by a critter or slug and must be tended to. By now, you have frozen tomato sauce, stuffed peppers, and string beans, you have shared your bounty with family, friends, and neighbors, and perhaps you have tried a new recipe, canned red beets, or made hot sauce with your garden’s bounty. These are the memories that will hopefully sustain you through the coming winter. Enjoy the final weeks of your summer garden, and if you are extending your garden with cool weather vegetables, I wish you a bounteous fall!
WCHI Pantry Garden Article – September 7, 2023
Contributed by Gwen Herzog, WCHI Pantry Garden Chair
August has been a very full month at our WCHI Pantry Garden! Hot days, warm nights, and a good amount of rainfall have helped our plants continue to produce incredibly well. We have been routinely picking zucchini and yellow squash and until just the fourth week of August, they had not slowed down production. We were fortunate to be able to offer all August Pantry guests a variety of fresh Pantry Garden vegetables including zucchini, yellow squash, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, red beets, radishes, and parsley in addition to cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, and apples donated by our generous community gardeners. Combined with the produce boxes, lettuce, onions, lemons, and grapes we received from Second Harvest Food Bank, it was a cornucopia of fresh produce for all guests! We were also able to supply some of our Pantry Garden produce to WCHI’s community meal at the Whitehall Bible Fellowship Church and to other food pantries in our area.
During our work night on August 1st, pantry garden neighbors, Walter and Stella, walked down for a visit. In addition to donating items grown in his garden, Walter brought cleaner and brushes and generously scrubbed the algae and mud from our shed while Stella, his dog, patrolled for groundhogs. Our shed looks brand new thanks to Walter!
Thanks to Michael Agrippine and the Whitehall-Coplay Press for featuring our Pantry Garden in the August 17th edition. Mike stopped by the garden during a Tuesday work night to interview us and take photos, and I was pleasantly surprised to see us on pages one and two!
I want to recognize and thank our amazing local gardeners who have generously donated their garden and orchard bounty! So far this year, with your generous donations, over 250 lbs. of fresh produce has been contributed to Lehigh Valley Plant-a-Row. Remember, our priority for donations is the WCHI Food Pantry and WCHI Free Community Meals, then other, local food pantries. Nothing goes to waste! Any amount of produce, large or small, is greatly appreciated. Please bring your donations to the vestibule at RE/MAX Unlimited, 1080 Schadt Ave., Whitehall, M-F 8:30 a.m.- 5 p.m. or call me at 610-379-6823 for other pick up or drop off accommodations.
As I wrote in last month’s article, I was able to purchase broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, and turnips from The Seed Farm’s fall plant sale. These were planted in available beds in the Pantry Garden, and with some metal rabbit fence, the plants have remained untouched! On 8/28 The Seed Farm reached out to donate more plants and herbs to our garden, so at our work night on 8/29, we cleared out our zucchini and yellow squash beds to make room for arugula, kale, Swiss chard, cabbage, turnips, pac choi, bok choi, endive, basil, and dill. We expect to plant these at our work night on 9/5. With continued sun, heat, and rain and without critter interference, we should be able to offer Pantry Garden produce to our WCHI guests throughout the fall.
Finally, my article would not be complete without sharing our fabulous year-to-date Pantry Garden yield of 373 zucchini, 222 yellow squash, 24 bags of radishes, 65 tomatoes, 95 peppers, 7 bags of red beets, 42 eggplants, and a tote bag full of parsley. I hope your gardens have been just as successful. Have a great month!
8/3/23 Pantry Garden article Contributed by Gwen Herzog, WCHI Pantry Garden Chair
What do you get when you combine sunny, hot days, warm nights, ample rain, great soil, well-established plants, and a great group of volunteers? You get one rocking garden! I am writing this article on July 27th and this week we were able to pick 47 zucchini, 22 yellow squash, 28 bell peppers, and 6 tomatoes. Our zucchini and yellow squash beds are really loaded up with plants and wow – they keep producing and producing. Even with all we picked in July, there is a constant supply of new growth which means a constant supply of new vegetables to pick. I’m not going to lie, when we were planting the seeds, I did drop 3-5 seeds in each hole I dug, so there are lots and lots of plants in each bed. So many that it can sometimes be a challenge to monitor and get in there to pick. I also think that from the time I arrive at the garden to cut the grass and when I get ready to leave, the zucchini have grown larger! I know this is not likely the case, but I’m sticking to my story.
At the beginning of July, a large quantity of tomato plants in pots were dropped to Shari Noctor’s office. We promptly planted them in a portion of our “U” bed, caged, and watered them. While they are a little smaller than the rest of the tomato plants, they are growing well and about to flower. Thank you to our mystery donor for this great gift!
As you know, with any vegetable garden there will be issues. After treating our eggplants for flea beetles, we are now seeing lots of flowers and a few small eggplants. The groundhogs have also seen the small eggplants and have taken a few bites, so this bed was fenced. In early July the leaves of our pepper plants started getting eaten prompting treatment, but pepper production has not been impacted. While it has been exciting to see some of our early tomatoes change color, the groundhogs have been eating the change. The tomato bed has therefore been fenced but it is not fully deterring these determined critters, so more aggressive action will have to be taken.
As I mentioned in my last two articles, WCHI is a Lehigh Valley Plant-A-Row drop off center. If our pantry cannot give away donated produce through our monthly food distribution or at our free community meals, it will be shared with another food pantry. On July 24th we donated 18.1 pounds of vegetables we grew at our WCHI garden along with donations to the food pantry at St. Stephen’s Church. Don’t forget, any extra produce you grow will help to feed a food insecure household when you donate it to WCHI and Lehigh Valley Plant-A-Row. Call or text me at 610-379-6823 to arrange for pick up or you may drop it at Re/Max Unlimited Real Estate at 1080 Schadt Ave, Whitehall M-F 9 am– 5 pm.
Although it is hot outside, we are planning our fall weather crops. Our plan is to get winter squash seeds into the ground very soon and try again to grow some cabbage and cauliflower. We plan to purchase some plants from The Seed Farm in Emmaus. Located at 5854 Vera Cruz Road, The Seed Farm will be holding their fall plant sale Saturday, August 12th and Sunday, August 13th. A partner of Second Harvest, plants are grown using organic practices. Why not try some fall crops in your own garden?
We always need help to weed, water, plant, harvest, and control ground hogs. Please join us at the Mickley-Prydun Farm at 3540 South Ruch Street, Whitehall on Tuesday evenings at 6 p.m. We love having visitors!
In case you were wondering, here is our year-to-date harvested vegetable tally: 129 zucchini, 80 yellow squash, 21 bags of radishes, 15 tomatoes, and 28 bell peppers.
Submitted by Gwen Herzog, Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative’s Vegetable Garden Chair
It has been another exciting month for the Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative Garden. When we were finally graced with early June rain, all our vegetable plants began to flourish! We now have small peppers on our plants, and several tomato plants have begun to flower. Our eggplants’ leaves started to become lacy due to flea beetles, so these plants were dusted. Some of the radishes started protruding out of the ground and we were able to pick about 90 so far.
Although I am behind on thinning the red beets and carrots, both are growing well. The parsley may be ready for a small first cutting for distribution this month. Our beds of zucchini and yellow squash are really taking off and I anticipate by the time you read this article, we may have little ones hanging on the vines. What we need now are hot days, warm nights, and regular rainfall to help our gardens grow. Fingers crossed!
One major addition to the pantry garden is a new rainwater collection system. Thank you to the Whitehall Township Public Works Department for installing a rain gutter on the back of our shed with down spouting into our water storage tank. Installation was completed Thursday, June 22nd just in time for the weekend’s rain and as a result, our tank is now filled to the top. Many, many thanks to the Public Works team and to Mayor Harakal for supporting this valuable project! I also want to thank the Hockey Fire Department and our volunteers who brought water to the garden during the dry spring season.
If you use the Ironton Rail Trail loop, you have surely seen our WCHI Garden. Like me, you have probably also wondered why we have so many grassy areas inside the garden fence compared with the amount of planting beds. Yes, we have space and opportunities. One of our garden volunteers has been working on clearing a space for another bed. In fact, this newly created space is almost ready to use. Due to its proximity to the outer fence, we discussed possibly having to protect it from deer.
As luck would have it, in mid-June we received a donation of used fence posts and mesh fencing from our Pantry volunteers Pat and Bob, which will be perfect to use around this new bed. Speaking of planting new crops, we kept our “U” shaped bed open in anticipation of receiving donated vegetable or herb plants. If you find that you have any extra plants, please drop them at Shari Noctor’s Re/Max Unlimited office at 1080 Schadt Avenue, Whitehall, PA or give me a call at 610-379-6823 to arrange for pick up.
In last month’s article, I announced that the Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative is now part of the Lehigh Valley Plant-A-Row community. The week of June 19th, neighbors of mine, Fran and Walt, donated 4 lbs. of garden lettuce which we were not able to immediately distribute at WCHI. Fortunately, we used the Plant-A-Row community network and shared it with another local pantry that was distributing food the next day!
As a reminder, any extra, fresh produce from your garden or orchard that you donate will first be distributed at our WCHI Pantry or at our Free Community Meals. If neither of these events will be taking place within a few days, your donation will be shared with local Plant-A-Row pantries that will be able to immediately distribute it. Nothing will go to waste. Fresh produce may be donated at Re/Max Unlimited and placed on the table in the foyer or give me a call me at 610-379-6823 to arrange for pick up.
Have a great July and happy gardening!
Written by Gwen Herzog, Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative’s Vegetable Garden Chair
What an amazing week we had at the WCHI garden! With the limited amount of rain recently, I was able to move the lawn mower deck down one notch and not stall out the mower. The groundhog re-opened the giant hole and once again, I was able to see it and avoid it. I refilled the hole with dirt, rocks, and the scrapings from underneath the mower deck. It appears that this critter has been feasting on our cauliflower and cabbage plants, but surprisingly not the Brussels sprouts.
Earlier this year, we had a robin build a nest and lay eggs in one of the flower boxes on our garden shed. A couple of weeks back the eggs hatched and suddenly there were four babies. I have a fear of birds, but since mama robin flew away to the fence whenever I got near, I felt comfortable observing these little ones close up. Monday the nest was abandoned, so I want to believe mama took her babies elsewhere with less activity. Look for photos of the hatchlings on our WCHI Facebook page.
On May 20th, Township Commissioner, Jeff Warren, graciously pressure washed the inside and outside of our water tank. Late last summer we experienced a small algae bloom and the inside of the tank became badly discolored. Jeff was committed to getting the tank looking good before it was filled this year. It took a lot of time and energy, but the tank looks GREAT. Thanks again, Jeff!
Tuesday evening was our first garden work night. Thanks to our volunteers, we were able to remove boards and cardboard, prep beds, plant, weed, and water. Sue Butchinski planted the pepper, tomato, and eggplant plants. Sylvia Lee and Jenn Dietz cleared beds and weeded, Tom Noctor rototilled, and I planted zucchini and yellow squash seeds. Finally, we all watered everything. Look for new garden photos on our Facebook page.
Wednesday evening the Hokey Fire Department delivered water into our newly cleaned tank. It may be another dry summer. Thank you to Mark Bilder and the entire Hokey Fire Department, now and in advance, for all the water they will deliver this year!
On Tuesday evening May 30th, the garden work plan includes: thin the radish, red beet, and carrot seedlings, prep and plant additional beds, cage the tomato and pepper plants, plant sunflower and other flower seeds, weed, and water. We welcome garden volunteers, but clearances are required. Please see www.tinyurl.com/WCHIforms for more details.
In May, WCHI’s Pantry provided food for almost 1,000 of our Whitehall and Coplay neighbors. Many of our guests tell us of the meals they will prepare using the fresh produce they receive. As you are planting your garden, why not plant an extra row or an extra plant and donate the vegetables to our Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative? All produce received will be distributed to our Pantry guests and given to our guests attending our Free Community Meals. You may drop your garden bounty at Shari Noctor’s Re/Max Unlimited office,1080 Schadt Avenue, Whitehall Monday-Friday 9-5. WCHI is also accepting any extra vegetable plants you may have. Call or text me 610-379-6823 to arrange for drop-off or pick up. Thank you in advance for all donations!
This week we learned that Shari Noctor’s Re/Max office will also be a local drop off site for Plant-A-Row Lehigh Valley, an organization that works throughout our local communities to help gardeners find a place to take extra produce. We look forward to this opportunity!
Finally, keep an eye out for our WCHI Garden Sign to be hung on our garden fence. You will be able to see it from the Ironton Rail Trail.
**Written by Gwen Herzog, Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative’s Vegetable Garden Chair**
It was another amazing week at our food pantry! Guests were plentiful and all were treated to a taste of vegetarian chili made with both canned and fresh vegetables that could be obtained from the pantry this month. Our great volunteers were extremely busy checking in guests, shopping with guests, filling guests’ carts with refrigerated and frozen items, restocking shelves, and pushing carts up the ramp from the pantry to guests’ cars. I like to be busy, but by nightfall, I was ready for some down time to mentally prepare for Friday…AKA seed planting day.
If you attended Family Night at Whitehall High School on Wednesday evening and happened to stop by our table, you may have seen the cabbage seedlings on display. As I wrote in my last article, our plan is to get the brassicas planted in early May and then get everything else planted after Mother’s Day. To minimize cost, we are starting our plants from seed. Of the brassica seeds planted, only the cabbage germinated. My Friday seed planting included three varieties of tomatoes, three types of sweet peppers, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, and a replanting of brussels sprouts and cauliflower. Each of the 26 containers was planted with 5-9 seeds, labeled, watered, and covered with a sheet of clear plastic to keep in the moisture and warmth to promote quick germination. This year’s seed starting is taking place in my sunroom on a 6’ folding table. You can see a photo of our seed starting project on the WCHI Facebook page.
While we are waiting for our vegetable plants to go into the ground, garden cleanup is necessary. Last week I finally cut the “grass” between the beds. I place the word “grass” in quotes because the “grass” is mostly weeds. Speaking of weeds, the beds are loaded with lots and lots of lush, green weeds. Fortunately, we still have several weeks to get these cleared before it is time to get our plants into the ground. Tom Noctor has once again offered to be chief weeder. Thanks, Tom!
This year we will also address a problem we had last year: Groundhogs! Last year it seemed these unruly critters were picking off our large tomatoes, taking a bite or two, abandoning it, and then picking another one. I’m sure it was a good time for the groundhogs, but it was frustrating for our garden team. While cutting the grass last week, I located a deep, 7” diameter groundhog hole with no visible exit. Fortunately for me, I found the hole before my foot did. I filled it with grass I scraped from under the mower deck and topped it off with weeds pulled from one of the beds, so we’ll see if the hole is still active on the next grass cutting day. We also have holes under our shed and our wide, metal fence makes it easy for any groundhog, squirrel, rabbit, etc. to freely enter and exit the garden. In our shed I found some additional, temporary fencing that can be attached to the bottom of the metal fence. We will try this as a critter barrier this year, close the groundhog holes, and cross our fingers that no other action will need to be taken to preserve our garden. I will keep you updated on our endeavors in future articles. Wish us luck!
I hope your seed planting and garden prep is going well! Keep us in mind if you have any extra plants to share and if you have any available time to volunteer in the garden or inside the pantry. You can learn more about clearances required at https://tinyurl.com/WCHIforms Happy May!!
**Submitted by Gwen Herzog, Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative’s Vegetable Garden Chair**
Weeds are amazing plants! They grow when there is rain, they grow when there is drought, and some of them even grow throughout the dead of winter. I have noticed in my own garden that there are lush, green weeds that took hold sometime in mid-December. Currently, these weeds are competing with the encroaching grass, also green and lush, in a competition to take over my beds. For weeks now I have been telling myself, “One of these nice days I will pull those weeds and edge the grass.” Although intermittently we have had some warm weather, my “nice day” still has not arrived.
When I bought my house, many of the beds had been previously neglected, so the yard actually went all the way up to the house. My dad helped me to get the beds cleared via shoveling and tilling. One of my friends who owns a landscape service added enriched topsoil to the beds and then we mulched to try to keep the weeds down. It worked pretty well, so the next year we added enriched soil and mulched again. Because weeding has never been my favorite part of summer, mulching remains my efficient but relatively expensive method for controlling garden weeds and keeping watering to a minimum. Eighteen years later, my beds are amazing.
In my last article I shared with you that the Pantry Garden is located on part of the Mickley-Prydun Farm. While I am relatively new to the Whitehall area, many of you are probably familiar with this farm and you may have had the opportunity to eat some of the fruit, corn, and other vegetables grown on this rich farmland. When I started to volunteer at the Pantry Garden, I learned it was only the second year of the Garden’s existence. The Pantry Garden beds were absolutely loaded with weeds! One of our volunteers, Tom Noctor, pitchforked the beds to remove the weeds. Since the garden was still so new, it was understandable that the weeds and grass still held a stronghold, and it would take time to tame it.
Fortunately, last year we had an amazing group of volunteers that spent one hour each Tuesday evening weeding the garden, watering as needed, and picking vegetables. By routinely maintaining our beds all summer, we were successful in getting and keeping the weeds under control. As a result, our vegetable plants had plenty of space to grow and ultimately provided a large amount of produce for our Pantry guests. I anticipate that we will have lots of weeds and grass in our beds this spring, but by following the same or a similar maintenance routine as last year, we will get our beds into tip-top shape. Don’t forget, garden volunteers are always needed! No experience is necessary, but you must have your clearances. You can learn more about obtaining clearances at the Whitehall Coplay Hunger Initiative website at www.whitehallcoplayhungerinitiative.org.
Submitted by Gwen Herzog, Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative’s Vegetable Garden Chair
As a vegetable gardener, for me, the saddest day of the year is putting my garden to bed in the fall when the forecast of frost looms. My parents come over to help me remove all the vegetables still on the vine, pull the plants, and get the cages, stakes, and ties stored away. It always amazes me how many end-of-season vegetables we remove, box, and stack in my garage for friends, neighbors, and family to pick over. In 2022, I was honored to take on the responsibility of chairing the Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative’s Garden located at the Mickley-Pyrdun Farm. The WCHI garden was also put to bed last October providing me with a second sad day.
Vegetable gardening has been a part of my life since I was a kid. My parents had a garden in our yard that expanded throughout my childhood. I helped my mom pick, clean, freeze, and can vegetables that would feed our family throughout the fall, winter, and spring. When I worked in West Virginia my landlords allowed me to use the flower beds around the house to grow a vegetable garden. When I returned to Pennsylvania and purchased my house in Whitehall, I continued the practice of using the flower beds around the house to grow vegetables. My mom once told me my house needed curb appeal. I told her I didn’t care, I wanted to grow vegetables. She, along with other family, friends, neighbors, and the Pantry now enjoys sharing my garden bounty all summer long.
Did you know that our Pantry will gladly accept any fresh extra produce you would like to share with our Whitehall-Coplay Hunger Initiative Community? Our guests like to cook and gratefully accept fresh vegetables and fruit when they visit our Pantry. Vegetables and fruit are also used and shared at our Free Community Meals. When planning your garden for 2023, why not plant an extra plant or even an extra row for our WCHI Pantry? Your donated bounty may be dropped off at Shari Noctor’s Re/Max Unlimited Real Estate office, 1080 Schadt Ave, Whitehall. Feel free to reach out on our WCHI website, Facebook page, or call/text me directly at 610-379-6823 to arrange for pickup of your extra produce.
Another way you can help our Pantry provide fresh vegetables to our guests this summer is to help at our WCHI Garden. We need volunteers to help plant, water, weed, harvest, cut grass, and weed whack. No experience is needed, but clearances are required. Last year despite a late start, we had a very successful year! We harvested: 89 zucchini, 263 eggplants, 503 peppers, 127 bags of grape/cherry tomatoes, 24 cucumbers, 7 bags of string beans, 8 large tomatoes, and 5 heads of cauliflower. Many of these vegetables went to households at our Children’s Summer Feeding Program and the rest were shared on our monthly Pantry distribution days. For 2023, we are planning to grow tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, and squash. Indoor seed planting, weeding, and vegetable bed prep will start in March.
The best day for this gardener is when the vegetable plants and string bean seeds go into the ground. It’s an exciting time filled with high expectations for what the plants will provide throughout the summer. If you are a vegetable gardener, I wish you a bounty-filled summer that you can share with others! If you have never grown a vegetable garden, why not give it a try? You can start with even just a single plant. Still not sure? Join us at the Pantry Garden and give it a try.