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But the successes have far outnumbered the flops. Their new apple and pear trees produced fruit the first year. “People are shocked,” John said. Their artichoke plants are full of artichokes. “We’re really pushing the zone,” said Catherine, who may try wintering the plants in their garage.
They’ve produced bumper crops of salad greens, tomatoes, chard, peppers, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant and Brussels sprouts. Catherine loves the way the sprouts look, growing in a lush circle behind a ring of log seats. But she wasn’t sure how to prepare them.
“Lots of people, myself included, didn’t know what to do with eggplant and Brussels sprouts,” she said. So she arranged a demonstration by a cooking expert who shared recipes and preparation tips.
“The first time I cooked an eggplant, I did not like it,” Andrea said. “So gross! But when we had the cooking demonstration, I absolutely loved it. It was so good — fried with bacon, onions and white beans.”
What about next year?
In addition to learning new recipes, the Schoenherrs have increased their horticultural know-how.
“I will never again have a garden without mulch — the weeds don’t grow,” said Catherine.
The whole family is committed to continuing the garden next year, although maybe with fewer crops. And they’ll definitely rotate some, to deter diseases and pests. “You don’t want to plant the same plants in the same spots,” said Aaron Schoenherr, the couple’s young adult son, who also has his own place but visits regularly to help with the garden.
Will the novelty of a neighborhood garden wear off? The family doesn’t think so.
“We’ve already had people who helped us say they want to help next year,” Catherine said. “It blows my mind.”
And they don’t miss their front lawn. “I did have some thoughts at the beginning,” Catherine admitted. “We had a lot of fun on this lawn. But it’s just like any room in your house. Something serves a purpose for a while, you grow out of it, and it becomes something else.”
She likes what it’s become. “A neighbor called at the end of August. She said, ‘One of my best friends has cancer and isn’t able to work. Her family has several kids, and they’re trying to get through the end of the month. Would it be OK if I harvested stuff for her?’ ”
Catherine was happy to give her blessing. “I thought, ‘This is why this is here.’ ”
Kim Palmer • 612-673-4784