**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!!