Bear’s Den is home to friends Geri, Donna, and Peter. For thirty years they have been growing their own food. Two large areas on Bear’s Den are set aside for vegetable and fruit gardens where they grow everything from rhubarb and berries to garlic and potatoes.
In early June, Geri gave us a tour of their cumulative work. She pointed out what was growing and what worked best for them. She didn’t promote the “right” way to do things, but simply shared what has worked for them. Her message was to know your own land, your own garden, your own soil, your own resources and experiment with what you have. Gardening is a dynamic relationship between people and the soil and plants, and we will all develop that unique relationship with our own place.
Following are some pictures and tidbits of wisdom gathered from this tour.
- Seaweed (rockweed) is the only soil amendment they use (other than their own compost of chicken manure, grass clippings and kitchen waste), gathered from local beaches and applied in the fall.
- They have tomatoes in two different gardens, quite a distance from each other. When blight hit one garden, the few weeks it took for the disease to travel across the drive to the other garden was long enough to give the tomatoes there a jump start.
- Rather than using tomato cages, they’ve built a wood framework. Their tomato structures are an effort to avoid having to use 40 (or so) individual trellising structures.
- Pepper plants are planted with gallon milk carton or vinegar jugs around it to protect from wind.
- Garlic is mulched with old leaves and then topped with straw to keep leaves in place.
They don’t till! It’s one less machine that needs fixing, and good exercise to work the soil by hand.
- They enjoy “volunteers” that come back – like lettuce and cilantro. It gives them an early source of greens in the spring
- The squash family plants are placed where they have plenty of room to sprawl.
- Know your pests (theirs are racoons and porcupines) and figure out ways to deal with them.