John Henry Jones’s Garden Plot
On June 3, during Greenbelt Day Weekend, two Japanese visitors came to Greenbelt. They were from Senri in Osaka Prefecture, a Japanese New Town which is turning 50 this year. The visitors wanted to learn from Greenbelt’s 75th anniversary celebration, and they were interested in seeing Greenbelt’s community gardens as the concept is becoming popular in Japan. John Henry Jones, long-time president of the Greenbelt Garden Club, gave them a tour of his community garden plot, and I tagged along and took these photos.
The community gardens have three sections. This one is directly opposite Greenbelt Homes, Inc.’s administrative building. Here John Henry Jones (right) points out the garden plots to Mr. Suzuki, an associate professor in the Department of Architectural Engineering at Osaka University.
This particular gardener uses tires to create raised beds. John Henry says that he discourages such practice because they eventually have to be removed.
In his own garden, John Henry points out a row of sweet potatoes.
John Henry points to his friend and helper Melvin (left) and says that Melvin loves eating sweet potato leaves. Next to Melvin is Mr. Tanaka.
Zucchinis are under these broad leaves. John Henry outlines how big they can grow.
California wonder sweet pepper. “These are early. They are not supposed to be on until the end of June.”
John Henry points to his patch of lilies: “These keep my wife happy.”
Purple hardneck garlic
Rainbow carrots are supposed to be of different colors. Melvin pulls out two: one is yellow and one is orange.
The first ripe tomato. “We are not supposed to get ripe tomatoes until July.”
Melvin hands Mr. Tanaka some sugar snap peas to taste. John Henry says that one can eat them raw or steam them in a steamer.
Sunflowers are falling over because of the heavy rain on Friday. Saturday’s Youth Triathlon was canceled because of muddy fields.
John Henry shows a row cover. “When the insects are bad, we can pull this over. It’s thin enough so that sun and rain will go through it.”
John Henry has two fig trees, one from around this region and one from New York which was just put in. He tells that his grandson came over and declared that all the seven figs he saw are his when they turn brown.
Melvin tries to show Mr. Tanaka two goldfish in a neighbor’s yard. They survived the winter in that barrel; however, Melvin cannot make them come up.
These are called walking onions. They can be broken apart and replanted separately.
Russian purple kale. “My grandson stands here and eats them raw.”
John Henry shows that these lettuces are going to seeds. He needs to clean up this area but has not been able to do so because of the storm. He has planted some lettuces elsewhere.
John Henry Jones, Mr. Suzuki, Melvin, and Mr. Tanaka chat in John Henry’s large community garden plot. The visitors ask John Henry whether people seek his advice. Sure. He says that the big question this year is how to grow peanuts. He has grown cotton, which is not supposed to be viable in this region, and now three people are experimenting with growing it.
John Henry is also responsible for this compost pile by the entrance to the community gardens. He says that one needs to mix green and brown together and turn it over many times. It is a hard work, and he asks people from the city to turn this pile over for him. Nowadays people can buy compost by the truck load at places like the University of Maryland, he adds.
Going down another path to see other garden plots, John Henry points to a fruit tree that was supposed to be a dwarf tree. He says that he discourages fruit trees and brings people here to show them that dwarf trees can grow big.
One gardener has attached to his fence a black-and-white photo of the earlier days of the community gardens, without many of the trees that now surround them.
In another plot, John Henry says that these plastic cups from MacDonald’s are used to stop cutworms from coming in and cutting the shoots at surface level. Alternatively one can wrap aluminum foil around the plants or use paper padding, he says.
These bushes were cut last spring. John Henry says that he wants to put two more plots here.
John Henry is going to drive the visitors to see the other two sections. I want to go photograph Alight Dance Theater’s reception in the Community Center, so I take leave of them early.