From left: Jim and Joanne Bucklew, Meghan and Andy Yarnell, Sammy Irias, and Robert and Stephanie Hart with their son, Sawyer Hart.
Three families, living in contiguous homes in Perrysburg Township, began swapping garden advice and an occasional plant a few years ago. That opened the door to other connections, the kind that make a neighborhood a treasure: sharing easy camaraderie, tools, produce, jars of homemade pickles and strawberry jam, and lending a hand. They help with each other's pets, keep an eye on each other's homes, and enjoy occasional cookouts.
Sawyer, 2, picks a pepper with his parents, Robert and Stephanie.
Last fall, they received permission from the township to plant on the circular island in their cul de sac (it saves the township money from not having to maintain it). They chopped down an old pine tree and rented a sod cutter to remove the grass around the large maple tree in the middle, but ran into hard clay threaded with tree roots. Able to till down only three to four inches, they created small mounds for planting. They got free mulch from the township, compost from a friend, and purchased a trailer full of topsoil.
In May, they planted low-growing plants in the mounds: buttercup, butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash; pumpkins (three types); watermelon (two types), and canteloupe. Jim Bucklew divided his mums and daylilies, transplanting dozens around the circle. They invited neighbors to join in but didn't get any takers. That might change after the fall feast.
"We hope to have a little block party and invite all 12 homes that are part of our little subdivision," Bobby Hart said. "But the veggies might have to come from my garden. The original intention was to have something in October before Halloween so the families could get some pumpkins and gourds for holiday decorations. The harvest might not be big enough this year, maybe next year will be better." Hope springs eternal.
Jim and Joanne Bucklew fi ll their watering can from a rain barrel.
Next year, they'll come up with a name for the circle and make a sign and a park bench, and try to figure out how to discourage the raccoons, squirrels, and chipmunks that have become plump on this year's crop.
Names: Bobby and Stephanie Hart, water treatment plant operator and homemaker, respectively. Joanne and Jim Bucklew, retired. Meghan and Andy Yarnell, teacher and information technology specialist, respectively. Living in Perrysburg Township.
Garden specs: The island in our cul de sac is about 1,200-square-feet. The Harts have 800-square-feet in vegetables. The Bucklews' large backyard is flower filled, the front is landscaped. The Yarnells plant seven raised beds totaling about 400 square feet.
When did you start gardening? Bobby Hart: I grew up in Northwood around the corner from my grandparents who had three-fourths an acre, row after row of raspberries, every vegetable you could imagine, and my grandpa raised bees for honey. My cousins and I used the garden as our playground. I had my first real garden in 2008 and have expanded it twice.
Joanne Bucklew: Jim has always planted veggies but my interest began about six years ago when I planted flowers in two small window boxes and was recognized in a local contest. Now I'm hooked, too.
Meghan Yarnell: Three years ago when we got married and bought our first house. We started small and have expanded every year since.
Meghan Yarnell picks a cucumber with Sammy Irias, center, and her husband, Andy Yarnell, in their backyard garden.
What do you grow? Bobby: red, black, and gold raspberries; six varieties of tomatoes; peppers (jalapenos, Hungarian wax, banana, and three types of bell); four lettuces, broccoli, strawberries, cukes, pickles, zucchini, summer squash, two varieties of onions, string beans, sweet potatoes, peas, and sugar-snap pea pods.
Joanne: Many perennials and annuals, some veggies, and we have lots of garden art.
Meghan: Tomatoes, onions, peppers, carrots, lettuce, cukes, strawberries and raspberries.
Favorite plants: Bobby: I savor every black raspberry because I can't find them in stores.
Joanne: Bleeding heart and zinnias.
Give us a tip: Bobby: Drip irrigation on a timer: Your garden will grow twice as fast and produce way more than one family can eat.
Joanne: Keep a journal to jot down what did well and the color combinations you liked. Also, we planted an autumn clematis (a bushy vine) to grow over and camouflage our 250-gallon rain barrel.
Meghan: Read a lot about gardening but not too much. And don't be afraid to try something new.
Hours spent gardening: Bobby: two to 10 a week, depending on time of year.
Joanne: Four to five a week, weeding and watering.
Meghan: Two-ish, depending on planting, harvesting, rain.
Annual expense: Starting the cul de sac garden cost $120, split three ways. Bobby: $50 to $75 for plants, watering, and compost. Meghan: $200.
Challenges: Meghan: Hauling buckets of water to the cul de sac because it's not close to a spigot. Bugs, fungus, chipmunks, and more have had a field day with the vegetables there.
Bobby: Only about 25 percent of my plants started from seed indoors survived outside. And fighting off all the pests without using chemicals, especially squash bugs and vine borers.
Joanne: The heat and lack of rain this year.
I'm proud of: Bobby: Being able to grow, freeze, and can my own food and still having extra to give friends and family. Also, teaching my son what my grandparents instilled in me. Stephanie makes all of Sawyer's baby food and freezes it in ice-cube trays.
Joanne: The way our landscape looks. And the cul de sac brings a sense of good will.
Meghan: Turning an unused space into something productive.
What I get out of gardening: Bobby: It's an addiction. Every year I want to grow more. But it's not easy: Weeds, bugs, birds, weather, and time are not on your side. You can spend hours every week picking to can or freeze for the winter.
Joanne: Watching things grow is so satisfying and looking at pretty flowers lifts your spirits.
Meghan: I like knowing where my food comes from, feeling good about how it was grown, and enjoying the harvest.
The Blade seeks gardeners who are as varied as what they grow. In a sentence, tell us what's unique about you or your garden. Contact Tahree Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6075. Or fill out the form at toledoblade.com/weedit.