Bo Peep takes pride in his home garden, to the point where he wakes up at five in the morning to defend it against squirrels trying to nibble on his tender seedlings.
There’s a lot to be proud of (and to defend) in this garden, with plantings from hot peppers to sweet potatoes to honeydew populating several beds lining the perimeter of his backyard. Some of these beds sit atop landscape fabric that Bo has used to tamp down on pesky crabgrass, others are raised and feature permanent trellises to give support to Bo’s cukes and tomatoes. All are given an additional line of protection from a fence built by Bo around his garden, although no fence can fully protect Bo’s sungold tomatoes from the “fleet” of grandkids looking to snack while playing on the slide that also sits in Bo’s backyard.
Bo’s garden isn’t the only food growing in his neighborhood. New Haven Farms’ Liberty Street Farm is located right across the fence from Bo’s beds, and Bo – who grew up farming in North Carolina, before moving to New Haven at age 15 – has keenly volunteered his skills on this farm site since New Haven Farms started farming at the site. Bo worked this site even before New Haven Farms came on the scene, with memories going back to the ’90s of working with community gardeners in this space and others around the city.
More recently, Bo has found time this season between his work fixing big rigs to personally transplant beautiful bachelor buttons and sunflowers to the Liberty Street fenceline, lending a splash of color to the site and the street. He’s also moved strawberries planted last year to a new bed, where they have flourished and are almost ripe to pick. The consummate good neighbor, Bo keeps an eye on issues, like a recent overnight sprouting of crabgrass, when the New Haven Farms’ staff isn’t around, and acts as garden ambassador to passersby, most of whom Bo seems to know personally after more than a decade living in the neighborhood.
Bo isn’t the only neighbor who’s helped revitalize the Liberty Street Farm this year. The garden sits within sight of Saint Martin de Porres Academy, a tuition-free extended day school middle school. Eighth grade students from the academy have come out to garden on a weekly basis throughout the spring, working alongside teachers and New Haven Farms’ staff to create new beds and plant a diverse array of crops, expanding the potential of this site for this year and coming years. That’s not to mention other individual volunteers like Bo Peep, who live and work near Liberty Street and have volunteered their time to make sure this site not only exists, but thrives.