Hales Trail plots are a home away from home for serious


Dave and Kay Kasun are proud of their plots in the Hales Trail Community Garden in Port Washington. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Kay and Dave Kasun faced a little dilemma when they moved to Port Washington from the Oshkosh area several years ago.

Kay grew up gardening and shared the hobby with her husband, but they moved to an apartment in Port with no yard.

They found a path to pursue their love of gardening in the Hales Trail Community Garden. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department offers 15-by-15-foot plots for rent to grow produce and other plants.

The Kasuns ­— people who get excited when the annual seed catalogs are released — have had a couple of plots for five years and grow a range of vegetables, herbs and flowers. And they’ve come to appreciate more about the community garden than its gardening opportunities.

“It’s a nice place to garden, but it’s also a nice community place,” Kay said, adding that the other day someone gave her currants and she in turn helped him with his potato crop.

“We’ve made a few friends,” Dave said. “We share horror stories.”

“Complain about the weather,” Kay joked.

This year, the drought has been the challenge — the big storm that hit much of the state on July 28 dropped only .15 of an inch of rain on Port, according to Dave’s rain gauge. The garden has two water tanks that gardeners are responsible to keep filled. A hose must be hooked up to a fire hydrant up the street, then to a faucet at the community garden before connecting to a tank.

It takes 45 minutes to fill a tank.

“That gives you time to weed,” Kay said.

Dave said he doesn’t mind the watering requirement. He is an engineer and sometimes goes to the garden before work. “I watched the sunrise. It was nice and cool and comfortable and quiet,” he said.

He wasn’t entirely alone.

“You start to recognize the birds by voice,” he said, adding catbirds and woodpeckers are common. They’ve heard stories of an “obnoxious deer” attacking people on the adjacent Ozaukee Interurban Trail, but it “hasn’t breached the perimeter” of the community garden, Dave said.

Kay also likes the tranquil escape, enjoying a beverage under a shade tree after her garden work is complete.

The two make the short trip from their Chestnut Street home to the garden once or twice a day from spring through fall.

With the community garden available, the Kasun’s didn’t need a yard big enough for a sizable garden, so they were able to buy a house on a small lot. But last year, when, like many others, they didn’t go to the community garden because of the pandemic, they planted a mini garden in their front yard.

This year, the Kasuns returned to their plots and took over another one that went vacant and had weeds several feet high.

“We missed talking to people,” Kay said. “I always knew we’d come back.”

The couple are growing a host of vegetables in their plots, including “way too many tomatoes and way too many poblano peppers, but you can’t have enough poblanos,” Kay said.

Other crops include bush beans, dry beans, chard, sorrel, cucumbers, cabbage, onions, basil, cosmos flowers and Hungarian, banana and green bell peppers. In fall, the Kasuns try to harvest as late as possible, using fresh beet greens in salads and on sandwiches.

Making things grow in their new plot took some work. While bugs can be controlled with soap and water, nutrient-deficient soil is the major obstacle. The Kasuns invested in many of the garden’s five-gallon buckets of compost for $1 each.

“It was just like concrete,” Dave said of the new plot’s soil. “For some reason, cabbages seem to be just fine there.”

The Kasuns have noticed gardening near the lake is different than farther inland. Everything starts growing slower near the lake, but fall lasts longer because the water keeps the frost away, they said.

That required some adjustments. Kay had to buy marigolds and cucumbers as plants and transplant them in the garden.

“Just the idea of not planting from seeds is amazing to me,” she said.

As the Kasuns harvest their produce, Kay goes to work cooking, canning, freezing and blanching.

“I like to cook from scratch,” she said.

She grew up on a farm near Oshkosh, where she developed her love of fresh food.

“My grandmother baked bread every single day of my childhood,” she said.

Kay later picked up food preservation tips when she and Dave’s two daughters participated in 4-H.

The Kasuns’ favorite types of food are Mexican, Indian and Italian. Kay makes huevos rancheros with fresh poblano peppers, onions and cilantro.

Kay, who has restaurant experience and works for PortFish, a nonprofit aquaponics organization that has a community-supported agriculture component where she gets fresh eggs.

“A go-to with fresh farm eggs is always quiche. You can put any vegetables in a quiche,” she said.

“You’re a quiche expert,” Dave said.

Kay makes her own tomato sauce and gets inspired by her husband’s business travels. On a trip to India, Dave stopped at a local grocery store, where he purchased a variety of spices.

Another time in Germany, Dave was made fun of for bringing back “way too much mustard,” Kay said.

Dave and Kay’s favorite vegetable is green beans — they chomp on them raw.

“I love the idea of knowing what you’re eating,” Kay said.

The ideas on how to garden never stop coming.

“I’m always learning,” Kay said. “Good gardeners always tell you they don’t know anything. You have to know enough to know you don’t know much.”

She does know she loves her community garden, and she isn’t alone. There’s a waiting list to rent a plot, “which is good,” Kay said. “More people should do this.”




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Ozaukee Press

Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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