More greens for Baltimore City Hall vegetable garden

City changing plants to go with soup kitchen's preferences

March 11, 2010|By Susan Reimer

More greens. Fewer cherry tomatoes.

Those are the plans for the second season of Baltimore's City Hall garden, which produced more than 2,000 pounds of fresh produce last year for Our Daily Bread, the city's largest soup kitchen.

"We're catering to what Our Daily Bread is requesting," said Bill Vondrasek, chief horticulturalist for the Department of Recreation and Parks, which helps care for the gardens.

"They specifically told us what they will eat more of and what they didn't each much of," he said.

That means fewer eggplant, less okra and no more kohlrabi. But a lot more collards, Swiss chard and other greens.

It is much easier to saute baskets full of greens to serve 700 homeless men and women than it is to get 700 servings out of the tiny Hansel and Gretel eggplant, explained Angela Treadwell-Palmer, a Baltimore landscape designer who created the plan for last year's garden.

"They wanted a lot more greens and a lot more beans," she said.

These changes work well with Treadwell-Palmer's designs for this year's installation.

Because it is showcased in front of City Hall and along the War Memorial Plaza, the vegetable garden has to be beautiful as well as bountiful. Last year, Treadwell-Palmer designed a very formal, Victorian-style garden, with wavy stripes of red and green lettuces and a French potage, or kitchen-garden-style planting of herbs and vegetables.

This year, she's picking up on the "minimalist" trend that is so popular in garden design right now.

"I was trying to evoke the style of the City Hall building last year," she said. "This year, the style will be in contrast. Very modern, with blocks of color instead of waves of color. It will be a patchwork quilt of a garden."

It will be easier to manage, too.

"It was too formal for an efficient harvest and for maintenance. It is much easier to have large blocks of fewer varieties," she said.

Another change this year? There will be no attempt to plant cold-weather crops in between the much-loved City Hall tulips. It was an intense and aggravating process last year for the volunteers from the Cylburn Arboretum, who will be doing the planting again this year.

"By the time the tulips are done, it will be time for the summer crops to go in," said Vondrasek.

"The seedlings in the greenhouse are about an inch high," he added. "If Mother Nature cooperates, we should get them in in the next couple of weeks."

City Hall vegetable garden
What's in
Collards

Swiss chard

Green kale

Purple kale

Broccoli

Green cabbage

Red cabbage

Yellow and red onions

Turnips

Snow peas

'Buttercrunch' lettuce

'Red Salad Bowl' lettuce

What's out
Kohlrabi

Eggplant

Leeks

Corn

Peas

Cherry tomatoes

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