The Port Washington community garden feeds Jane Love’s passion for gardening and feeds those who receive her gifts of produce.
For 15 years, Jane Love tended to her garden in Cedar Grove where she and her husband Brian lived.
When the couple moved to Port Washington four years ago, she was stuck without her favorite pastime.
That’s where the Hales Trail Community Garden came in.
“For people like me who love gardening and don’t have a place to go, this is just perfect,” Love said.
On the weekends, Love arrives at her three plots in the middle of the garden just west of the Ozaukee Interurban Trail near Hales Trail at about 5:30 a.m.
During the week, she works at Molded Dimensions in Port Washington until 1 p.m. and will be at her garden by 1:30 p.m. with her iPod tuned to Ray Price and Barry Manilow, watering plants and pulling weeds.
“I like coming in the morning to get everything done,” Love said. “Once I get down here, there are just endless things to do.”
Love grows cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, onions and carrots in her 15-by-15-foot plots that are complemented by pristine rows of zinnias, petunias and marigolds.
Each row of plants is exactly two feet apart, making for easier maintenance.
Basil surrounds the tomato plants, which is supposed to give them a better taste, she said.
Most of what she grows goes to the Food Pantry in Port Washington, which picks up produce from the garden every Tuesday.
Love also gives some away to family and co-workers. She brings the rest home to her husband.
“I like to eat the veggies raw, so I don’t really cook them up or anything,” Love said. “I get pretty much all of my plants from Drews (True Value in Port Washington). “It has a great selection.”
The first year the couple lived in Port Washington, Love was at a loss without a garden to tend to.
Her husband saw an ad in Ozaukee Press inquiring about prospective gardeners.
When she was told late in the season there was a plot for her to use, she used a layering technique of mulching to try to prepare it for the next season.
It didn’t work.
“I was just going to let it sit and try again the next year, but somebody put a tomato plant in it,” Love said. “I thought that was really nice, so I went back to True Value and bought more cages and plants again.”
This year’s cool spring had an affect on Love’s garden, particularly her cucumbers, which kept turning yellow.
She had to replace them three times.
At the end of the season, Love gathers up about 30 bags of leaves, dried manure and straw for mulch.
“It helps the ground retain moisture,” she said. “Last year, I used mulch on the whole garden because I didn’t want to weed, but I had a slug problem.
“When I do get weeds, the ground is so nice they just pull right up.”
Like others in the community garden this year, Love’s tomato plants are a bit blighted, but are still yielding a bountiful crop.
Next year, Love will plant beans and zucchini to give to the Food Pantry.
Many of the tools she uses have a special significance, like a hoe inscribed with her grandfather’s name and shovels used by her mother and father-in-law.
“It’s nice because I think about them when I use them and remember those times spent with them,” Love said.
She has learned a few tricks from watching others over the last few years, like using a wheelbarrow to haul milk jugs filled with water from one of two water tanks at the garden.
Sharing her passion for gardening with others is another reason Love enjoys the atmosphere at the garden.
“This is a perfect place because the people are friendly and if you have questions, they share their ideas with you,” she said.
For more information on the community garden, visit Hales Trail Community Garden Facebook page.