By Joe Cowan
Director of Operations
Over the weekend, I spent the bulk of the day digging out roots and rocks from the side of a hill. Looking down at the terrace garden on the right side, there is another sloping area that was at some point terraced as well, albeit without any structural components to keep them in place. Even though the terrace garden has 28 beds with ample space for most of our growing needs, another large area that could be dedicated to a single crop is irresistible. So, we decided to add a pumpkin patch. Heirloom variety pumpkins are delicious, and I have a toddler who will surely get a big thrill out of playing in the pumpkin patch. Eventually, we will add some masonry stones or curbing, and a path down the middle. The six side beds will rotate each year with a new staple or a fun crop to grow in large quantities, such as pumpkins, corn, rye, or even potatoes.
Many of these decisions are being made based on the fact that our seedlings have germinated and are nice little sprouts now. The sight of them growing larger and taller every day is adding some urgency to our plans. This is now crunch time in a big way. We have pumpkins, leeks, lettuce, kale, cabbage, tomatoes, summer savory, and one very early black beauty eggplant already. Peppers need a little bit of warmer weather, and then there are at least three dozen other types of seeds that we intend to direct sow in the terrace beds. Despite some warnings about germination rate, we went with Biodynamic seeds from Turtle Tree Seeds, and organic seeds from High Mowing. In all, I haven’t had any issues with germination whatsoever and the seedlings look as robust and colorful as I could hope.
This garden is essentially a new entity, having been neglected and left for at least three or more years. The only thing about it that I am not choosing is the site on our property but, to be honest, this is a fine location. With that, the soil preparation at this point is paramount. With large rocks, weeds, big dirt clumps, and possibly a lack of nutrients in the soil, I will have to spend every day leading up to sowing and transplanting amending the soil using an array of tools; a broad fork, cultivating forks, rakes, and several toddler gardening tools. Additionally, I have lots of dried comfrey leaves I saved from last year to make more compost tea. In all, the soil preparation both in the terraces and the side garden will help set the stage for what I hope will be a good growing year.
I find one of the biggest blessings of summer is the availability of fresh fruit and vegetables. Whether perusing a farmer’s market, local farm stand or nearby orchard, it’s inspiring to see what’s growing locally, and then deciding what I’m going to preserve. The month of July is a bountiful one, with gardens growing a plethora of veggies, and orchards offering their first fruits. Here in Michigan, we grow some of the highest quality cherries available, and this blog will be focused on what to do with the cherries that we’ve picked.
We are all accustomed to the idea of preparing food in advance. My freezer is stuffed with bones for making bone broth, already prepared meals that I’ve forgotten about, and dubious looking ice cubes. Other less suspicious items include frozen trays of butter balls, made with ashitaba, wild ramp, and salt and pepper. The seasoning changes slightly depending on what I’m cooking, but on the whole, it’s a basic seasoning I use for simple dishes like rice or scrambled eggs.