Wheeling’s Urban Gardens Experiencing A Good Growing Season

Urban Gardens Experiencing A Good Growing Season

WHEELING — While it was a slow start to the growing season for several local urban gardens, the August-like temperatures in June and July helped provide that needed boost to create bountiful summer produce, according to several area garden and farming workers.

Danny Swan, executive director of Grow Ohio Valley, said the colder than normal temperatures and late snowfalls made for a slightly late start to the growing season in the spring, however an abundance of hot and sunny days over the past two months combined with plenty of rain have made for a rapid growing season for many plants.

“I know a lot of people got a slow start because you just couldn’t get out there in the snow and work — but then all of the sudden it’s summer,” Swan explained. “So it feels to me like the heat has compensated for that,” he added. “We’ve experienced very fast (overall) growth rates this year. … However it is crop specific,” Swan said.

He said that while many desirable vegetables plants such as tomatoes, peppers, corn and eggplant have flourished under the hot and sunny conditions with plenty of rainy days mixed in, other plants like lettuce won’t grow quite as fast under the same conditions.

“Usually, it’s like you have one or the other … but we’ve had both in abundance until the last couple of weeks we had a few dry spells. We have great growth in the orchard this year,” he added.

Grow Ohio Valley has several organic gardens and greenhouses around the Friendly City, including an outdoor learning center along 18th Street that has raised garden beds and a fruit tree orchard located on a hillside above Wheeling Tunnel. Swan said the purpose of the outdoor learning center is set up to be a teaching space, which is one of the reasons it was erected across the street from the Laughlin Memorial Chapel. In addition Swan said the two large greenhouse they have set up on the hillside above a section of East Wheeling help provide an organic growing space that allows them to grow some plants both earlier and later in the season.

“It’s a great time to be a farmer because it’s appreciated,” said Swan. “There’s a general awareness now of the incredible health benefits that come with consuming fresh, healthy vegetables and the best of that is from local farms. Our food has to travel like a quarter-mile to get to the local farmers’ market.”

However, the big farmers’ market on 15th Street will feature lettuce picked one hour before the market opens.

Another urban garden that is already providing a bountiful of vegetables is the Edelman Garden on Wheeling Island which is a project of the Seeing Hand Association in Wheeling. The garden, which was adapted to be a safe space to provide opportunities for the blind and visually impaired, was officially dedicated last summer.

Garden volunteers Paula Weisal and Martin Wach agree that while the growing season got off to a late start, the garden is doing very well now and providing plenty of produce. Weisal said in addition to the conducive mid-summer weather, they have advantages at their garden due to the bottom soil which has years and years of sediment that provides for great drainage and adds to the growth of the plants. Tomatoes, green peppers, celery, cabbage and cucumbers are just a few of the garden plants they are growing.

While the mid-summer heat and sunshine have provided for great growth of many plants, Weisal points out that the plants require a lot of watering during the drier spells due to the soil conditions.

“You can just look at it (the garden) and tell it’s good,” Weisal commented.

Meanwhile, a garden located in the side yard at the The Cockayne Farmstead in Glen Dale that is maintained by students of the John Marshall High School horticultural program, also seems to be doing well this summer, according to Nila Chaddock, chairwoman of Marshall Historical Society Committee.

She said the students get extra credit for coming back over the summer months to take care of the garden. She said while most of the garden seems to be doing very well there are a few areas of the garden that deer and rabbits have nibbled away.