VIDEO: From banana trees to bees: Darien’s urban garden is a slice of paradise

Cutting zinnias staked with golf clubs. — all photos and video by Susan Shultz

Fore!

Ok, maybe a few more than four. Closer to 2,000.

But the golf clubs used by Wayne Riedel and Eric Joosten in Darien’s urban garden on Old King’s Highway aren’t for any golf game.

The pair has recycled thousands of golf clubs to use for stakes in their expansive garden now more than five years strong. They cut the ends off with a pair of cutters.

How long does that take?

“Not that long,” Riedel says, with a smile.
Riedel and Joosten, who serves as the head of Darien’s Environmental Protection Commission, recently gave The Darien Times a tour of their budding garden. So far, it is mostly herbs, cutting zinnias and a bit of emerging broccoli.

Oh, and also banana trees — but don’t expect any bananas. The climate isn’t warm enough.
Despite that, the various plantings and brightly colored zinnias, along with the requisite umbrella table, make one feel closer to 95 as a temperature versus an interstate.

Growing broccoli

 

However, it still runs close by and the hum of traffic fits in well with the hum of the bees in the beehive — giving the two the opportunity to sell local honey.

That the land, roughly an acre in size, could be made into a garden is something of a surprise. The property, owned by David Genovese, chief executive officer of Baywater Properties, was a vacated housing lot that had old equipment, fallen tree branches and litter — including mattresses and an old air conditioner — strewn all over.“It was so thick with brush, you could not walk through it,” Joosten said. “This was a dumping ground.”Joosten and Riedel had another garden on Gardner Street for nearly five years, but had to leave it after plans were made to build a home there.

It took a lot of work to clean it up, and some leftover dumped items still linger in the background if you look hard enough.

Genovese and Baywater acquired the land in 2007 along with other downtown properties and decided to let Joosten and Riedel use it since there were no immediate plans for it.
It continues to grow in size and popularity. Joosten named more than 10 breeds of tomatoes of all colors and sizes expected to come in — from heirlooms to cherries to grapes to yellows.

Video: Watch Eric Joosten break down the tomato variety. 

Fig trees, some of which sustained some damage with the tough storms in the spring, border lines of peppers. Yellow squash, zucchini, swiss chard, all varieties of herbs, beets,

The garden will be open for business as soon as the crops are ready to pick and be sold.

The bunch of cut zinnias are $4 and the vegetables are $3 a pound, regardless of type.

“We just love it. Eric and I enjoy our hobby here. We are happy to grow tomatoes for those who can’t in their own yard,” Riedel said.

To visit this little slice of urban paradise — you can find the garden near the corner of Old King’s Highway and Corbin Drive. When the gates are open, its open for business.

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