Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Kate Crowley
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Gardens and zucchini

Going Nature's Way

 

August 1, 2019



When you read this it will be the first of August (or very nearly so). As I write there is a very welcome, steady and gentle rain coming down. As August arrives everyone starts to wonder how the summer has gone by so fast. While the winter months drag on, it seems that the calendar speeds up in June, July and August. There is a deadline in the natural world that says, reproduce – but do it quickly because September will be here before you know it. So, the birds mate, build their nests and by July they have finished raising a new batch of young ones. By mid-August many of them are already pointed south and gradually leaving the North Country. It is a long and sad good-bye for those of us who waited through the long, dark winter months for the sweet sound of birdsong.

The same timeline exists for flowers and vegetables. After months of monotonous greys, white and browns, the land bursts forth in color; all shades of green and every other color of the rainbow. Our eyes can’t get enough of it – that’s why we spend hours filling pots with annuals, and even more time planting and nurturing fruits and vegetables.

Five years ago, I wrote in this column regarding people posting photos on Facebook of their garden bounty, “I wish I could post some of the same, but I am not a dedicated enough vegetable grower, which I blame on our poor sandy soil, as much as my own lack of energy. I prefer to enjoy other people’s hard won efforts by visiting the local Farmer’s Markets. We do grow potatoes because they produce with so little effort and this year has been even easier since the regular rains have replaced time spent watering.”

Something happened in the intervening years and I blame it on my husband – he who loves to plant potatoes. Two years ago he tried planting what is known as the Three Sisters among American Indians. This is when you plant corn, beans, and squash in one hill and if all goes well, they support and nourish one another. In our pure sandy soil, the results were less than stellar, but the gardening bug had a firm hold of Mike. Last summer he put in two raised beds.

He has become more and more excited to see what the garden can produce and last year’s bounteous green beans were a source of never ending wonder. He had a neighbor help till up some of the soil in the old horse corral and brought in a truckload of black dirt. This year we had a Brazilian friend visiting who was eager to help, so Mike put him to work and in one day we went from having two raised beds to eight! This required more loads of dirt and thankfully Ricardo was here to help move it around.

Mike’s style of gardening is what I describe as “laissez-faire.” He believes in putting the spud or seed in the ground, wishing it the best, and letting nature take its course. Weeds and the act of pulling them were not in his overall plan. Unlike him, the sight of weeds overwhelming everything in their path drives me crazy and so I am out there on hands and knees doing what I can to control the chaos. He has planted two and a half beds with potatoes, two and a half with squash, and one bed with tomatoes in it. The beans are in a row at the base of his climbing hops vines. I looked at the remaining empty beds, and put some gladiola bulbs in one and a variety of other seeds in the others.

We also have two mounds that we built based on an old European type of gardening called hugelkulture. It conserves moisture by using twigs, branches and logs to make a raised bed that is topped with compost and soil. Over time the material beneath breaks down and provides more nutrients for the plants growing on it. This is where we planted the zucchini.

Is there any other vegetable that has as much notoriety? It is the butt of jokes and the plant that just keeps on giving. Why couldn’t we remember just how abundant these slender green squash can be? Why didn’t we just plant one seed? Zucchini’s were the first out of the starting gate. We started picking them a couple weeks ago and immediately started giving them away. I’m determined to pick them while they are still small since people seem less intimidated and maybe even a little pleased to get them when they can still be held in one hand.

Wanting to share our bounty, I took four of them with me on a trip to Seattle last week for a family reunion. I had them in a plastic bag in my backpack and wondered whether TSA would be curious. Sure enough they pulled the backpack and had me step to a table while an officer unloaded everything. I told him about the zucchini and he just nodded. But it wasn’t the zucchini that was the problem – it was the small loaf of Rosie’s Rhubarb Walnut bread I picked up at Tobies to share with my sister. I was allowed to repack it and the zucchini and off we went.

Now August is upon us and the zucchini are just the ‘tip of the iceberg’. I am already thinking that next year the raised beds would look even better filled with daylilies, peonies and irises.

 

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