Let’s Get Growing!
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Words by Frank Connelly. Images courtesy of Vince and Valerie Zangard and Frank Connelly.
COVID-19 has caused many of us, who are sequestered at home, to discover or perhaps rediscover skills that our forebears took for granted. Skills that may include baking, music and gardening. Vince and Valerie Zangardi are an example of a couple who discovered their love of gardening and who wish to help others to learn how to grow vegetables and other produce in their very own yard.
The drive to Valerie and Vince Zangardi’s home in Williamsburg West was a pleasant one. The weather was somewhat overcast but the air smelled fresh and clean from a recent rainstorm. My day became even brighter when I met up with Vince and Valerie.
Vince and Valerie are a young couple with matinee idol looks and a passion for each other that permeates through everything they touch and do. Their garden which they affectionately call ZangardenVA is the result of that passion. It is quite beautiful and a delight to experience. That passion also extends toward others and their hope to share their gardening expertise with everyone.
My tour of their garden began with their front yard. Vince identified every plant or tree that was there. Each were flourishing with purpose. He identified fig trees, Russian Pomegranate, Peach trees and others. As we moved to the back yard he identified a granny apple tree that was showing signs of fruit growth. He explained that an apple tree needs to have a chalice shape that allows light to flow through the center.
We then made our way to the garden itself. There were several raised beds with hanging trellises that had several types of vegetables. They also had a small chicken house attached to the garden. Valerie identified for me three types of radishes, carrots, raspberries, eggplant, jalapeno, snap peas, English peas, tomatillo, cantaloupe and tomatoes. It was clear to me that a lot of time and effort was put into the garden. It all had a sense of purpose and was a delight to my eyes and nose.
We all took the opportunity to sit within the garden as I had many questions about it and their hopes for the future. It all started when they were initially living in a duplex and had limited space. They had some cherry tomatoes and experimented with container gardening. But then they then moved to their current home which had a rudimentary garden.
The garden with its current layout took over four years to establish. It took a lot of trial and error but they are now able to harvest hundreds of pounds of natural food for their dining pleasure. Some vegetables such as cucumbers which become pickles are in such abundance that they can sell them. They can sell enough pickles that it subsidizes much of the expense of the entire garden.
Planning a garden as explained by Vince is like solving a puzzle. The idea is to provide balance for your garden space. Raised beds are a necessity as they drain better than planting in the ground. You need to write down where to plant it depending on the season. Planning needs to start five months in advance. It is a good idea to leave space in the raised bed for various seasons. Plants that grow well in the summer may have extra space nearby for plants that grow well in the fall.
Aesthetics are also an important part of the design for the garden. As their bean sprouts grow they envision a canape that grows over the garden. The canape would envelop the garden and would allow them to have their own unique space where they can enjoy cocktails and truly commune with nature.
The most difficult part for anyone who wants a garden is how to get started. Valerie and Vince have an answer for that and they want to help you to establish your own garden. But they do want to emphasize that it does take work. Everybody can grow a lot of food with one 4 x 8 raised garden. They believe that everyone who grows 10% of their own food will be 10 % less they would need to buy at the grocery store. Valerie and Vince will come to you and provide consultation on how you can have a beautiful and flourishing garden.
Vince has a dream for the community. He wants to establish a community garden. He has been eyeing a parcel of property near the Peter Chang restaurant in Williamsburg. The idea is that the community would have interest in the property and grow their own vegetables. But it would need corporate support. He imagines how joyful and productive it would be for families to harvest their own vegetables.
My very pleasant time ended with Valerie and Vince as we bid our adieu. They then picked several radishes for me which allowed me to have a superb salad that evening.
Let’s Get Growing!