Growing up instead of out, adapting to a new home
Dr. Toh-Ming Lu learned to garden from his father. When he was young, he would follow his father into the garden and watch what he was doing. It was at this young age that he discovered the value in growing up, not out. Moving to Shaker Pointe two years ago, meant adapting a garden into a smaller space. Dr. Lu was up to the challenge. He is glad to show off his growing greens explaining, “the space here is smaller so you have to grow in high-density. Build up with vines, instead of out.” Utilizing one of Shaker Pointe’s raised garden beds, Dr. Lu has an impressive system. Using only bamboo to create a five foot lattice, his garden reaches high above the ground towards the light of the sun. The raised beds are two feet high and are easy to work with, no bending and kneeling. Equally impressive is his patio which serves as a lush oasis for tomatoes, zucchini, perpetual spinach (a variety of Swiss chard), and Malabar or tropical spinach. When entertaining a visiting colleague last week, Dr. Lu said, “She asked what spray I use. I use nothing! Just water fertilizer, and sun.” Another positive discovery he made is the insects almost completely leave the plants alone! New to the garden this year, Dr. Lu’s cucumbers grow off vines without so much as a single burrowed hole. His Oriental eggplant and two types of beans grow like crazy, taking quite nicely to the ‘high life’. When asked which plant was his pride and joy, he immediately answered “the dahlias,” exclaiming, “I absolutely love the flower! I have always tried to grow them.” With such a wonderful bloom that will last until the first frost, it’s easy to see how one could fall in love with the beautiful ‘Dinner Plate’ dahlia. This is Dr. Lu’s first year growing the Dahlia at Shaker Pointe, he admits the challenge will come in the fall when the bulbs require harvesting and storage in a place where the temperature should be in the 40’s. He is hopeful that his cottage neighbors and fellow gardeners will store the bulbs in their garage.
An avid gardener discovers a growing community at Shaker Pointe
While touring Dr. Lu’s harvest it’s easy to see the diversity of the neighboring raised beds, offering some healthy competition! The competition is friendly though. The beds grow side by side, similar to the spirit that lives here at Shaker Pointe. Dr. Lu’s idea for growing perpetual spinach came from his neighbor Diana, who had a bountiful harvest last season of the leafy green. From talking to other neighbors about how they prepare the green, Dr. Lu decided he prefers the perpetual spinach in a stir-fry. Another neighbor admired the Oriental eggplant that grew in Dr. Lu’s garden last season, so when it came time for harvest, he shared the bounty. His vegetarian neighbor made a fabulous eggplant topped pizza and now grows the same type in his garden bed next to Dr. Lu’s. When asked if he and his wife, both professors at RPI, have more time to enjoy their interests and hobbies now that they live at Shaker Pointe he remarked, “Oh yes! We have more time for quite a few things! Sometimes we find that we end up doing more work at school, but it has been great living here.”