Thursday, June 19, 2014

How the garden grows ...

This year's version of the Lucas County Historical Society's heirloom garden is flourishing thanks to timely planting and cooperative weather --- as this photo, left over from Tuesday evening's "Peanut Day" open house, illustrates. Jim Secor, head vegetable gardener, was showing Meg Prange around just before guests started to arrive.

This is roughly the north half of the garden. The beds of squash, cucumbers and Moon-and-Stars watermelon, plus sunflowers and a variety of other annual flowers are behind me, to the south. The flower garden end is Kay Brown's project. She's chief flower gardener on the museum campus.

We started the heirloom vegetable garden as an experiment last year, just to see what would happen, and had so much fun it's moving now toward becoming a permanent installation.

Volunteers spent way too much time last summer hauling hundreds of feet of hose down the hill, then back up again, to keep it watered during the dry months. This year, we installed a water line to simplify that task. We've also added an asparagus bed and some rhubarb, permanent staples of many pioneer gardens.

My only contribution to the project was seed garlic, planted early last October. It's flourishing now --- and we just removed the scapes (which I brought home and ate). I also sneaked out (with permission) yesterday enough mixed heirloom lettuce for two salads.

Jim's short rows of many staples that would have been found in traditional Lucas County gardens are in the foreground. His principal indulgence --- four varieities of beet. Beyond that are heirloom tomatoes (we produced enough tomatoes last year to feed the county), then the three-sisters bed (corn, squash and beans) and finally garlic, asparagus and rhubarb.

Just down the hill from the garden is a long stretch of what appears right now to be tall grass, but actually is a healthy stand of oats. We're trying to bring this area back as a small patch of restored prairie --- it was getting there several years ago when a sewer construction project demolished it. After that, it got to be just kind of a weed patch.

But between late last summer and now, Jim has worked to get rid of invasive grasses, then planted oats. Later on, we hope to reseed the prairie. It's not clear exactly what we'll do with the oats --- hardly enough to thresh, plus there aren't many functional threshing machines left these days. So we'll see about that.

Anyone who visits the museum or its grounds is welcome to go down the hill and take a look at the garden. The trip down's easy; but getting back up can be a long haul. Here's a hint. If you start at the south end of the garden and climb up to come out between the barn and pioneer cabin, it's easier.

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