For many years, we have had a “worm bin”, a specially designed container to keep compost worms and feed them with kitchen scraps. This works pretty well, although the worms sometimes find it a bit too hot in summer. However, come winter, they often do not survive the cold. Last spring, we had to buy new worms. (In case you wonder: ‘red wigglers’ can be ordered on Amazon.) Last fall, we were determined to keep the worms alive. Someone would have to take them home and foster them durning the winter.
Barbara found the perfect place for our worms: Two classrooms at the Winston Preparatory School on 17th Street. The students picked worms up in late fall, put them into a bucket and kept them happy, warm and fed all winter. This was a good thing: even though last winter was very mild, only one worm survived in the garden’s worm bin.
A couple of weeks ago, it was time for the worms to come back. 9 students and their teacher came to put them into heir summer home. They added shredded newspaper, a little water and some of the favorite worm food: watermelon rind. Now it is our job again to keep them healthy and well fed. In return, the worms create valuable compost that we can use to feed our plants.
After checking out our compost bins and looking at worms with a microscope, the students went on a tour around the garden to see how everything looks in spring. We hope that they will come back in fall and take our worms to their winter quarters.
Last Sunday, we came together to celebrate the life of our beloved chair Barbara Cahn, who passed away suddenly on the 17th of March 2023.
Barbara had been a community garden activist for many years before she joined our group. Together with members of the NYC Community Garden Coalition, she fought to save gardens from development all over the city. Once she became a member of LaGuardia Corner Gardens in 2011, she immediately dedicated many hours of her life to working in and for this garden. She quickly turned her plot into a wonderful jungle of kale, tomatoes, cucumbers and flowers, and she was instrumental in making LaGuardia Corner Gardens the open, friendly and welcoming place that it is today. Over the years, Barbara became compost master, assistant bee keeper, rat harassment expert, youth instructor, workshop organizer, representative in countless meetings of various organizations, vice chair and finally, in 2021, chair.
Barbara was truly the life and soul of LaGuardia Corner Gardens.
How much we owed to Barbara, how much we loved her, and how much she will be missed can’t be better expressed than in the words by our long-time chair Sara Jones:
“I am honored to celebrate the life of my dear friend, Barbara Cahn. I’m here to represent LaGuardia Corner Gardeners. Barbara was the vice to my chair for many years and we co-steered the community garden we both loved so much. I called her my “serial volunteer”. She always offered to do, to go, to help in any way; she was always game. I believe a lifetime of community service and activism was instilled in her early on in her Peace Corps days. The Garden wasn’t the only place she gave generously of her time and talents. Barbara weeded at the High Line, worked for public radio, volunteered for the NY Film Festival and was a docent for the Greenwich Village Historical Preservation Society, all while being a ceramic artist.
Time is unforgiving, moving forward relentlessly, leaving only memories, vignettes of adventures we shared. The Garden was our backyard, an oasis, a sanctuary in the big city. We did a lot more than gardening there. We used it as a creative workshop, inventing and presenting programs. We made stepping stones with shards of Barbara’s pottery, learned composting, experimented with eco dyeing, we went to the Rat academy and she even joined me beekeeping. Barbara and I participated in the Mayor’s Youth Leadership Council, which mentored youth in our community garden. We enjoyed teaching, our passion. We shared the love of books and film and theater. We sat together in many Off-Broadway shows and Avantgarde theaters. We protested together for community gardens at City Hall and marched down 5th Avenue in our pussycat hats. Barbara love New York and all it had to offer.
She taught me so much about de-escalating a situation with a complement. Always speak to a persons strength, you’ll get more co-operation than if you point out their deficiencies. In 2015 the Garden initiated an open gate policy. I lived on Thompson Street and would open the gate most mornings before work. Evenings, gardeners would gather to water and chat. Barbara, Karin and I would always be the last to leave. Barbara would always close up. Those long summer evenings I thought would last forever, laughing with forever friends.
The pandemic forced me to move from NYC. I was confident leaving the Garden in Barbara’s care. Barbara helped me disburse my belongings when I moved, helping find homes for furniture, housewares, everything. We have everything away. Which was hard work. I was so looking forward to Barbara’s visit to my new gardens, but we unexpectedly ran out of time.
Let’s celebrate Barbara by becoming a little more like her: kind and generous. Let’s remember her laugh and her positive creative energy. Let’s plant something in her memory. Let’s eat kale. Let’s volunteer. I think of Barbara as a seed of generosity. Let’s keep LaGuardia Garden a public space so kindred spirits can connect and create with each other and make lifetimes of magic memories.“
Sara closed with a poem by Patti Tana that appeared to have been written just for Barbara.
Scatter my ashes in my garden so I can be near my loves. Say a few honest words, sing a gentle song, join hands in a circle of flesh. Please tell some stories about me making you laugh. I love to make you laugh.
When I’ve had time to settle and green gathers into buds, remember I love blossoms bursting in spring. As the season ripens remember my persistent passion.
And if you come in my garden on an August afternoon, pluck a bright red globe, let juice run down your chin and the seeds stick to your cheek.
When I’m dead I want folks to smile and say, “That Barbara, she sure is some tomato!”
Last Thursday, New York City experienced record temperatures. In Central Park, the thermometer climbed to 90º F in the afternoon. For the garden, this unseasonable heatwave means confusion: the last daffodils are blooming. The tulips are fading so fast that one has barely time to enjoy them. The lilac is in full bloom and the roses have buds!
Most surprising was to see the tree peony with many of its flowers wide open. The last time I had checked, there were only buds.
The flowering garden is lovely, and it is wonderful to put away the warm winter jackets and get out shorts and T-shirt. However, this is not normal and it is hard not to worry about what else climate change may bring us in the future.
Spring has arrived in New York City. After a mild winter and a few warm days, the first daffodils are already fading and the tulips are starting to bloom.
This Easter Sunday was a little chilly but bright and sunny. It brought us some visitors: a few tourists were enjoying ice cream on the patio, some neighbors dropped by, and the first migrating warbler stopped over and looked for food.
The false marsh marigold (Ficaria verna), an immigrant from Europe, looked very beautiful today with its bright yellow flowers and shiny green foliage. Too bad that it is a pretty obnoxious invasive weed that suffocates native spring flowers in parks and forests. Good that we can bring it under control by careful weeding.
Can you believe that along with these early spring flowers the first bleeding hearts are also in bloom? In just a few days, the lilac will open its buds, too. It is almost time to think of tomatoes, cucumbers and summer flowers. At the very least, it is time to put their seeds in to the ground. Let the gardening season begin!
So far, this winter has been extraordinary mild, two short cold snaps with truly icy temperatures notwithstanding. There has also been no snow to speak of (yet). Thus, the first winter aconites bloomed already a couple of weeks ago.
We have some sad news: On the 18th of January, a team of tree specialists arrived to cut down our good old apple tree. The poor tree had been ailing for many years. Branch after branch succumbed to a fungal infection and died. Unfortunately, fruit trees are not like oak trees that can live for centuries. Most apple trees are healthy and productive for only about 40 years. Our tree was probably planted more than 50 years ago (we don’t know for sure since it was already there when LaGuardia Corner Garden moved to its present location). It was thus really at the end of its life.
Sadly, the same fate befell the peach tree. It, too, had been sick for a while. Last year, we still harvested a small crop of wonderful peaches, but one branch cracked this fall. Upon closer inspection, the arborist found a fungus near the base of the trunk. There was nothing we could do to save it.
We will surely miss the peaches and apples. However, we also have the opportunity to redesign the area next to our front gate and plant something new. As gardeners, we are aware of the natural circle of life. A seed germinates, the plant grows, flowers, bears fruit and finally dies. Both trees brought us much joy and will not be forgotten.