Small Wonder Urban Garden by “Eric & Jason Hoover”

Garden description: Five years ago, Small Wonder Urban Garden was created under the idea that a large impact can be achieved even in a small urban space. It was built as an oasis for pollinators and humans in the center of a busy city. The garden brings to light the very important connection between insects, nature, and humans. Small Wonder Urban Garden is an example of a no-excuses outcome, as it has overcome a variety of common excuses people give for not having a garden. It was created by tenants who do not own their home, in a very small space in the city, with zero direct access to ground. The raised gardens and containers rest entirely on a tiny 500 square foot concrete area, but nonetheless have shown that a seemingly small and useless space can become the visual feature of a neighborhood and the ecological footing for insects and wildlife to thrive. The core concepts of the garden are: -Creating an oasis for pollinators -Connecting people to nature -Urban beautification -Utilization of space
Who are the gardeners: The gardeners are twins Jason & Eric Hoover, who are also Delaware Natives. The Hoover twins are ever-evolving environmental scholars, who continue to reassess their own values, and share their joys of horticulture with the community.
Why do you garden: We garden because we find an inherent joy in creating life. Our gardening creates life through the plants that grow in it, the insects that thrive in it, and the rippling effects that they have on the rest of the ecosystem. Additionally, we create life by making a beautiful space that brings people together, seeing its beauty from outside the space, and the rippling effects that these positive interactions have on the rest of the community. We also garden because we love teaching people about the wonders of nature. For example: each summer monarch and swallowtail caterpillars grace our garden, and each year we watch them become larger and larger until they turn into beautiful chrysalises, and ultimately in the fall transform into stunning butterflies. Witnessing this process is an experience that can inspire a non-gardener to bring home their first milkweed seeds to start a pollinator garden of their own.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: Gardening has always been a great way to disconnect from the busy world around us and find solace by reconnecting with our natural world. In times of high-stress, uncertainty, and isolation, this reconnection is more important than ever.
What do you have in your garden? Our garden is almost exclusively comprised of native species which benefit insects and pollinators. Because the garden is so tiny, just over 500 square feet, we realized native plants are the best way to maximize the ecological impact of our small space. Upon entering the garden you will see an abundance of high-impact pollinator plants such as Joe Pye-Weed, Milkweed, Bee Balm, Hyssop, and Queen Anne’s Lace, with a fury of pollinators hard at work. These pollinators range from almost microscopic native bees, to bumblebees, and of course, monarch and swallowtail butterflies. The blooms are beautiful, and the support it gives the native pollinators is clear. A variety of native trees and bushes give dimension to the tiny landscape, which include a beautiful volunteer Honey Locust, two Sycamores, planted from seed, a Viburnum Bush, a White Pine, a Serviceberry, and a cluster of River Birch trees. Each tree houses other plants and flowers at its base, including a tiny Fern grove, a small Current bush, a Fig bush, and Foxglove. A large Walnut looms over the garden, from the house next door. The space strives to be as 3-dimensional as possible, from garden bed to tree canopy, and everything in between. Nestled in between these feature plants, you can find several other native, ecologically beneficial plants such as Purple Cone Flower, Butterfly Weed, Lupine, Coreopsis, Sunflowers, and Black Eyed Susan. A small shaded corner houses a Paw-Paw nursery. The remaining plants mostly comprise of house plants which are easy to take cuttings of, split or root, and which have been brought outside to recover from the winter. These plants include Spider Plants, Coleus, Tradescantia Pallida (Wandering Jew), and a variety of succulents. These plants are not native or ecologically beneficial, but they bring people together and expose people to the wonderful world of gardening. These plants are our master indoor specimens, which provided hundreds of cuttings to friends, workplaces, schools, and students over the years. In addition to plants, the garden focuses on people. A feature backyard table sits in the very center of the space, which hosts many backyard meals and late night get-togethers. String lights add a warmth to the space and allow it to be used into the night. A large compost tumbler attempts to blend in with the plants, and reliably processes all kitchen scraps, paper, and garden litter throughout the year. It is the source of all of our supplementary fertilizer and potting soil, and allows us to drastically reduce our contributions to the landfill. A few small logs with holes drilled in them provide shelter for pollinators. A drip system efficiently delivers a few minutes of water three times a day. A home-made bench and a repurposed bench sit perpendicular to each other, tempting the passerby to sit and enjoy the space.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem?
Yes – pests are often a challenge because we strive to be a 99% organic garden.  Our main priorities are to provide a safe home for pollinators and to create a beautiful space to exist and feel good in.  Spraying chemicals and pesticides would only help us accomplish the second of the two goals.  We only use non-organic pesticides as a last resort, and when we do use them we are extremely targeted and use them extremely sparingly.  For example, our River Birch cluster has been plagued by a bronzed birch borer for several years, which has shown major impacts on the tree.  Pruning back dead and damaged branches, fertilizing the soil with compost, and watering regularly was not enough to save the tree, so we used a very small amount of permethrin to save our beloved tree.  

Our baseline defense is through garden layout and design.  We keep plenty of airflow in our garden to prevent stagnation of spores and disease – this is a challenge when trying to maximize a garden and fit lots of plants into a very small space.  Additionally, we keep our plants healthy through regular watering via a drip system and hose, through appropriate sunlight exposure, and through bi-annual applications of our home-grown compost soil.  Anything that cannot remain healthy must be cut back so that it does not harbor disease.  Typically though, our first line of defense is to use beneficial nematodes in our soil.  We spread them in our compost pile and our garden beds, which helps eliminate pests such as small flies, grubs, weevils, and borers.  Our next line of defense is manual inspection and removal.  For example: in the spring we often have to combat anthracnose on our Sycamore trees.  Manual inspection and pruning of infected leaves and branches help the tree stay healthy and strong.  Infected foliage never goes in the compost.  Powdery mildew often visits our garden, which is best controlled through pruning.  A quick blast with a garden hose is a surprisingly effective way to organically remove pests.  The third line of defense is through the use of soap water, which we often end up using for aphid and mealybug control.  We like to give ladybugs time to take control of the situation themselves, but this year I needed to intervene in order to save a favorite tree.  My tedious process involved climbing up on a ladder and meticulously spraying the underside of every leaf.  The task was repeated every other week until the population was finally under control. As you can see, every effort is made to keep the garden as organic as possible.

Green Grove by “Gigi”

Garden description: Growing House plants is the closest way to bring home a feel of living with nature. In my tiny apartment, I’ve tried to make sure I see a little bit of green anywhere I look – from the kitchen to the living room and even my bathroom 😇
Who are the gardeners: My husband and I are from India and we have large rice fields and coconut groves along with vegetable patches by our house. We love plants and keep growing and propagating more and more plants.
Why do you garden: There’s no greater joy than watching plants grow and propagate.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: It’s been our biggest source of happiness. Every little new succulent baby or ivy leaf makes our day.
What do you have in your garden? Succulents – Echeveria, Sedum, Cacti, Mother of Millions, Jade, Woody Jade, Snake plant, Aloe vera, rattail, Christmas tree plant. Ivy – Pothos and more Pothos Others – 2 varieties of Dracaena
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? We had a lot of trouble with spider mites but neem oil spray really helped. One Pothos (Devil’s Ivy) pot also had fungus gnats. But re-potting and spraying ginger water helped and now all is great.

Rock Garden Sanctuary by “Jane Brooks”

Garden description: We built the garden on a hillside, making 3 levels using New York blue granite rocks. It was done in June 2018. We then added two magnolia trees, two red buds, several hydranga and three cryptomeria trees. I’ve been adding perennials, spring bulbs and annuals since.
Who are the gardeners: My husband, John, takes care of the grass and I do the flower beds. We’re both retired and love working in the garden. I grew up on a farm in NE, so it’s in my genes.
Why do you garden: I love being outside, it’s good exercise and I love flowers.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: It’s been a life saver. There’s always something that needs attention in the garden so it keeps me from going crazy. I hide from the virus in my yard and it’s very enjoyable and rewarding.
What do you have in your garden? So far I’ve planted 1000+ spring bulbs….daffodils, various allium, Spanish blue bells and Casa Blanca lilies. I’ve focused on deer resistant perennials….daisies, echinacea, rudbeckia, liatris, salvia, huechera, coreopsis, yarrow, dianthus, phlox, various sedum, lots of iris, baptisia, painted daisies, plumbago, clematis, lambs ear, drift rose, Irish moss, amsonia, carex, bee balm, lobelia, and balloon flower. Under the huge maple tree we have shade perennials….hostas, huechera, Japanese Forrest grass, hellebores, astilbe, and ferns. I add color with annuals…petunias, calibrachoa, geraniums, Brown Eyed Girl sunflowers, hibiscus, mandevilla, canna, gerber daisies, thyme, ornamental peppers, marigolds, celosia, and lots of coleous.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? Haven’t really had any problems🤞

Shepherd’s Community Garden by “Good Shepherd Lutheran Church”

Garden description: We are a faith based community garden. We have 7 large raised beds that all produce goes to St Stephen’s Food Pantry in Wilmington. We have 30 community garden plots that are rented out to the community with the request for a 10% donation of their harvest to the food pantry.
Who are the gardeners: This garden is tended by the congregation of the church and by the community gardeners. Its mission has expanded beyond just going vegetables and has become its own community whose members care about food insecurity and each other. In this time of isolation it has been a safe and peaceful place for people to be outside and be involved in serving ministry.
Why do you garden: We garden because we are called to be good stewards of our resources, food insecurity is a large problem in Wilmington and to create community.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: It has been an activity that has allowed people to connect safely, enjoy nature and give purpose to people’s days.
What do you have in your garden? tomatoes, squash, peppers, beans, cucumbers, watermelon, kale, choi, kohlrabi, lettuce, beets, corn, herbs, radishes, eggplant, okra and sunflowers.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? We had a rabbit problem earlier so we had to reinforce our wood fence with some wire mesh.

Our Fairfield Garden by “Barb Rosen”

Garden description: Our Fairfield Garden has just turned twelve years old. When we first moved to this 60+ year old home there were only large pines, a Zelkova tree, some shrubs and masses of pachysandra and English Ivy. The former owner was proud of the “No Maintenance” yard and I knew it would take years to eradicate all that invasive ground cover! Working on the front curb appeal first, I established a large island bed, a shade garden under the Zelkova, plantings along the driveway and pulled the front beds out by 8 feet. Each and every day in the garden, I pulled up, mowed or mulched ivy. In the next few years, a gazebo, raised bed vegetable garden and more flowerbeds were added. We built a small conservatory greenhouse and cold frames onto the house using salvaged windows five years ago. Provisions were made all along the way for shelter, food, water and places to raise young for wildlife and the garden is now a certified Wildlife Habitat. Our Fairfield Garden has evolved over the years due to our care, acts of nature and weather. It has been our joy and solace, especially since retirement and during this pandemic.
Who are the gardeners: I am the head gardener but do hire help for fall & spring cleanups as well as any trimming/pruning needing a ladder. Day to day, it is all me. I have found that intensive gardening has reduced the amount of weeding needed. Established perennials need little extra watering during dry periods. My grandfather taught me how to garden and I have always had houseplants and a garden. Since retiring from teaching, I have also managed a little hobby blog called Our Fairfield Home and Garden. There I document changes in the garden and projects I undertake. I also took up watercolor painting and paint the birds and flowers that are dear to me.
Why do you garden: In the garden, I can forget the worries of the world for a time. It is somewhat under my control where the troubles raging around me are not. There is peace in gardening.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: n/a
What do you have in your garden? Many native and ornamental plants and shrubs have been incorporated into our garden. Among those are varieties of hydrangea, rudbeckia, echinacea, aster, dogwood, plumeria, ferns, lily, allium, clematis, spirea, hosta, ninebark, viburnum, crape myrtle, acuba, rose, fig, rose of sharon, ironweed, solidago, vitex, phlox, joe pye weed, milkweed, abelia, iris, carex, leucothoe, clethra, dicentra, quince, buckeye, kerria, calicarpa, mountain mint, many spring-flowering bulbs and much more.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? Dry weather has required me to water containers, window boxes, raised beds and new plantings. The bird population has kept destructive insects at bay.

Half Acre Garden by “John & Shannon”

Garden description: The main garden is a 600 sq ft rectangular fenced area. The “fence” is wire poultry netting that is attached to a post and beam skeleton of burned timbers. The wire fence is buried 8” below ground. This has kept rabbits out of the garden which had been an issue in years past. We burned the timbers to help preserve the wood but mainly for aesthetic reasons. The west side of the garden is the composting area. This open air, four-bin system is not only convenient (toss garden waste over the shoulder) but offers other benefits. Intentionally situated on the west side, it provides protection from the western winds. As the garden/yard/ food waste moves through the four-bin system, it breaks down into compost and becomes a passive source of fertilizer, leaching into the garden. The northern section is a post and beam structure taller than the other three sides. This allows for trellising crops to not cast shade on other parts of the garden. While the fenced area is where there is a concentration of annual food crops, the entire property is designed to grow food. Peach, fig, aronia, raspberries, blueberries, asparagus, strawberries, hardy kiwi, squash, herbs, mushrooms, etc. are all grown outside the garden. We call it Half Acre Garden because that is the approximate size of our property, and because it connotes that one doesn’t need a lot of land to grow a lot of different types of food.
Who are the gardeners: We are a suburban family that enjoys growing nutritious and flavorful seasonal food. We (John and Shannon) are the main caretakers. John specializes in the pre-production of the food – the growing… and Shannon specializes in the post-production — the harvesting, preparing, cooking, and preserving. Our children specialize in mainly eating the food.
Why do you garden: We have always valued physical fitness and overall health. We realize that the food system is inadequate in this country and feel compelled to have a bit more control over our access to nutritious, flavorful and affordable food. We also feel like it makes us better human beings. To observe the needs of something, to help meet those needs and then to watch it become fully what it is designed to be… is beautiful. We find joy in knowing that we have helped nurture nature. Admittedly, it isn’t completely altruistic as we do get to enjoy the beauty and bounty of it. We want to inspire people to nurture their land — to feed the soil. We become better stewards of our community when we become intentional with our actions and the impact it has on our land. We are literally putting down roots which seem to be (increasingly) lacking in our fast-paced and transient society.
How has gardening impacted you during this time: It has only confirmed our belief that there is value in producing some of one’s food and nurturing one’s land – becoming more resilient to systemic environmental and societal “shocks”. During this time we feel hope is vitally important. There is hope in a tomato flower … and hope is one of the best things to grow.
What do you have in your garden? In our main garden, we have tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, peas, beans, corn, lettuces, Swiss chard, broccoli, and a variety of companion herbs and flowers.
Do you have any problems with disease or pests? If so, how are you dealing with this problem? We focus on making the land a healthy ecosystem, giving our attention to the basics – water, food, shelter and introducing an adequate amount of biodiversity. It seems when those needs are met, disease and pests are minimal – the system balances itself. Admittedly, accepting a certain level of imperfection helps. We’re always learning and currently trying a more passive approach. We have a lot of wood chips on our property, using them as walking paths and in landscape beds. The paths are inoculated with Stropharia Rugosoannulata fungi – also known as wine cap or garden giant mushrooms. This mycelium helps the wood decompose and provides food for different insects and microbes. The mycelium helps to bind the material together and act like a sponge, holding water and then slowly releasing it when needed. It creates an underground network that help plants meet their food, water and shelter needs. Worms especially love it. Over a few years the chips break down into nutrient-rich soil. A side benefit is that the wine cap mushrooms are delicious! We also have plenty of birds and bees because we’ve provided areas of shelter, water and food for them. In turn, they help pollinate plants, aid in pest management and in general, are just pleasant to have around.