Mélie’s Gardening Tips
When planting my vegetable garden this weekend, I was thinking about how many years crops have been grown on the Island… starting with the Indians and then the Winthrop and Fox families. There are photographs of fields of corn surrounding my house and those fields are now part of the golf course. I am looking forward to Pierce Rafferty’s “Farming on Fishers Island” exhibit at the Museum this summer. The crops grown were primarily for the livestock raised here, but there were also vegetable gardens for the residents and workers on the Island. I have often fantasized about growing vegetables year round, in large hoop houses. With “Farm to Table” being so popular today in restaurants and the well-established oyster business here, it would be wonderful combination for the Island to export.
This weekend, I was assisted in my planting by three of my grandchildren. They have their own small garden and my eldest grandson decided to primarily plant watermelon plants and pumpkin seeds. The little garden has a plastic cover and the children were delighted to see that some spinach they planted last fall was thriving under the cover. How it was alive after the winter we had was a gardening miracle! My granddaughter suggested we try an Indian way of growing crops by planting some corn with beans and squash underneath. The beans grow up the corn stalk and the squash at the bottom smothers the weeds. We decided that those crops should be planted in my larger garden, because the watermelon and pumpkins would take up most of the space in theirs.
I put in my tomato plants that I buy from Gilbertie’s Nursery in Westport, CT. It is good to plant vegetables that are locally grown and not bought in large stores like Lowes and Home Depot. You are less likely to get diseases and they are more acclimated to our area. I placed my tomato teepees over the plants for wind protection. I also put homemade plastic cylinders around the small squash and cucumber plants. Take a plastic seltzer bottle and cut the top and bottom off and place it around the plant. It protects the seedling from the wind and pests like pincher bugs and rabbits. I even put the plastic cylinders around my dahlias, when I first plant them to discourage slugs. The wind on Fishers Island is often very cold until the ocean warms up, so the extra bit of protection helps the plants get established. If you can’t have a wonderful hoop house like John Ski has over his garden, the cut seltzer bottle can be a big help!