To Judy Unger-Clark of Rindge, gardening is therapy

  • Judy Unger Clark on her property in Rindge, which includes a garden, orchards, a hill and a barn. —STAFF PHOTO BY ORIANA CAMARA

  •  Judy Unger-Clark weeds her raspberry bushes. —STAFF PHOTO BY ORIANA CAMARA

  • Lettuce sprouting in Judy Unger-Clark's “kitchen garden.” —STAFF PHOTO BY ORIANA CAMARA

  •  The cold box helps protect the plants from severe temperatures that could damage their development.  —STAFF PHOTO BY ORIANA CAMARA

  •  Judy Unger-Clark gazes over her field toward Mount Monadnock. —STAFF PHOTO BY ORIANA CAMARA

  •  The Stella Natura Biodynamic Planting Calendar helps guide Judy Unger-Clark’s planting schedule.  —STAFF PHOTO BY ORIANA CAMARA

  • Judy Unger-Clark and the garden up the hill.  —STAFF PHOTO BY ORIANA CAMARA

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/24/2023 8:40:52 AM
Modified: 5/24/2023 8:38:22 AM

Gardening is in Judy Unger-Clark’s blood.

“We always had fresh sweet corn and a big pea patch. My sisters and I would eat the peas raw, so when my mom went to the garden for dinner, there weren’t many left,” Unger-Clark said with a laugh.

Throughout her childhood, she watched her father tend to the garden and her mother can all of the goods. Each year, she hoped her parents would plant watermelon. To her dismay, they never did. 

Unger-Clark moved to Rindge in May 1979 with her husband Craig. She began a garden and made sure to plant her own watermelon. She sees gardening is therapy, as she loves the outdoors and thinks of planning a garden as having a blank canvas.

“It’s another artistic outlet for me,” said Unger-Clark, who is also a photographer and taught high school photography in New Hampshire and Vermont. 

Her two current gardens are divided by apple and peach trees, a hill and a barn. The hill makes for a three- to five-degree temperature difference between the two gardens, and due to the harsh frost earlier this month, some of the peach and apple trees suffered in the cold and are not expected to produce fruit this season.

Unger-Clark refers to the garden at the bottom of the hill and closest to her home as “the kitchen garden.” It has lettuce, peas, peppers, tomatoes, strawberries and herbs planted in it. 

Past the orchard and up the hill is the second garden, where corn, pumpkins, garlic, potatoes, cabbage, onions, melons and sunflowers grow. The perimeter is traced by a small electric fence to discourage the deer and raccoons from snacking.

The rows of short green plants like clover, winter rye and hairy vetch will become green manure to help organically enrich the soil. Unger-Clark uses white floating row covers to protect vulnerable crops from the cold. She said the garden up the hill has longer-term crops that don’t have to be harvested daily. 

The Stella Natura Biodynamic Planting Calendar helps Unger-Clark stay organized while gardening. She flipped to a calendar charting the lunar phases and noted its utility in guiding her gardening schedule.

“It’s helpful to keep a written record,” she said. “I’ve used this method for about 15 years.”

In the early 1990s, Unger-Clark attended the the New Hampshire Master Gardener Program, offered by UNH Cooperative Extension.

“We were taught all kinds of methods for growing different gardens, from landscape to vegetable to fruit,” she said.

At the end of the program, participants were tasked to complete a project. Unger-Clark created a courtyard at the Rindge Memorial School, where she had each grade school student plant one bulb. Come spring, they all watched the garden bloom. 

Unger-Clark also owned Sunflower Field, an organically certified farm open from 1989 to 2018. While she no longer runs a commercial garden market, her gardens continue to flourish, each year producing fruits, flowers and vegetables.

“Garden-fresh produce is so much better than anything from the supermarket. The artist/craftsperson in me has the philosophy that homegrown vegetables and flowers have a quality and a stamp of perfection that’s unmatched. Picking our food at the peak of ripeness where the vegetables’ sugars are at their peak and cooking and/or consuming immediately doesn’t even compare to grocery store veggies. As my husband always says, our food has that special ingredient – love!” 

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