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A Look Inside Our Community Garden

A self-professed fanatical gardener, resident Craig Daniels is a regular staple in the Community Garden within The Forest at Duke. This summer, Craig is continuing to enjoy the freedom to plant new and interesting plants and flowers with North Carolina’s longer growing season, while his friends and neighbors get to enjoy the beauty in his hard work.

Craig and Edo in the garden

Craig and his wife Janet moved to The Forest from New Hampshire, where Craig had an entire yard for growing. While he does miss the expanse of room, he has found his group of 4’x8′ raised beds in the community garden and his and Janet’s apartment, both indoors and outdoors on the patio, allow him plenty of space to exercise his green thumb.

Some of his plantings actually made the move from New Hampshire with the Daniels, like his mint plants. Others are brand new to the plot, like his cotton plants; those wouldn’t have fared well in the cooler New England temperatures.

The shortest times to harvest in his plot are the garlic scapes, needing only 5 months until they’re fully ready, compared to 9 months until harvest in New Hampshire. Once ready, Craig hand delivers the scapes to Slim in dining services to use in the week’s meals at The Forest. The longest time to harvest will most likely be the cotton, with additional drying time as well.

Cotton in mid-August

Craig is also growing broom corn, tomatoes, and sunflowers this season, all favorites of the North Carolina heat. When asked about edibles, Craig is quick to explain, “The salad bar at The Forest at Duke always has fresh lettuce, spinach, mescaline, peppers, onions, etc. so it seems redundant to grow them when you have limited garden space.” But if asked about a favorite in his garden, Craig will always default to flowers. An avid floral enthusiast, Craig especially enjoys flowers that are good for drying.

Sorghum stands tall in a neighboring raised bed.

Of all the blooms, the giant zinnias are the most breathtaking this summer. Stems stretch towards the sun giving way to a firework of bright oranges, reds, and pinks. They are truly a delight for the eyes; the pollinators are enjoying them as well, buzzing back and forth among the rows.

Pollinators hard at work.

Craig has a few no nonsense tips for the everyday gardener, like his use of poles for tomatoes instead of cages. The poles, as Craig explains, help with better air circulation. To tie the tomato plants in and encourage climbing, he uses flagging tape in lieu of twist ties. The tape holds the plant tight without constricting, giving the plant more room to grow and flourish.

A volunteer poppy from early in the season.

It was Claude Monet that stated, “My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.” Here at The Forest, we feel incredibly lucky that Craig chooses to share his masterpiece with everyone.

Our sincerest gratitude to Craig Daniels for giving us a tour of his plantings. He also provided us with information about his garden and shared his time with us as we prepared this article. We are so grateful and can’t wait to see what crops up in the fall and winter!

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