Story and photos by Ken Rubotzky
The Soldiers Home Garden Project, a partnership of Friends of the Soldiers Home and the Armed Forces Retirement Home, is off to a strong start. This spring the program has grown, with 45 community volunteers joining 15 veteran residents in tending plots on the lower grounds of the beautiful Soldiers Home campus. This is the third year of the program, which has spawned friendships and helped bring veterans back to gardening because they have helpers for some of the heavy lifting.
The 2014 growing season is off to a wet and muddy start. Deer fences are sprouting up, and discussions about tomato varieties are ensuing. Two rows of garden space are visible from Rock Creek Church Road and Park Place Northwest. They will be the source of many vegetables and fruits that make it to the homes of volunteers and residents, and possibly visitors, during the numerous upcoming events in 2014.
This year amaranth and echinacea have made it into the May planting. If you go all the way to the end of the B section, and talk to the perspiring owner of one of the last garden plots, you might fear for your life. He has excavated several deep pits and is excited about planting three sisters. The sisters are companion plants, of course — beans, melons and corn.
Several social events, some more fun than work and others more work than fun, transpired between bouts of April showers. The first event involved working out the kinks of equipment repair and fencing. Another was a meeting of minds of old gardeners. The third involved cleanup, and the most recent session was an informal social where new pairings of volunteers and residents put down some roots. Events are planned for each month while the weeds and deer attempt to secure their share of the gardens.
It should be a good season.