June Garden

new garden 2012

Longfellow Farmer, June 2012

Inspired by the spring weather, love of digging in the dirt and the opportunity to build another garden that would provide more organic food for the family, I began the planning of an 8 by 12 raised vegetable garden.

To begin, I dug out the grass and prepared the site. Next, I hired the Longfellow carpenter Mike Ripple to construct the raised beds from pine. The next day, 4 yards of dirt arrived from Ramsey Organics located 3/12 miles east of Elk River, Minnesota. Guaranteed organic, this dirt is made from John’s special recipe:

turkey droppings

turkey quill

clam shells

native peat

John’s turkeys are fed pellets, not shell corn that can get in the bed. In addition, he uses water plants and algae from his lake to add phosphorous. The glacial silt/clam shells add organic lime. There are no commercial fertilizers involved, no cow or horse manure which would put urea in the soil. He adds organic wood shavings and turns it constantly and then runs it through a machine.The public is welcome to go and watch the process. This dirt has a rich black color and crumbles nicely. John recommends using fish emulsion as a fertilizer once the garden is established.

Once the soil was shoveled into the garden and leveled with a rake, I planted 3 rows of sweet corn, with snap peas along side, 3 broccoli plants, 3 cucumber plants on mounded soil, 3 jalapeño plants and 2 tomato plants.  These plants were bought from the local coop and came from Gardens of Eagan. A third tomato plant was added, an heirloom variety given to me by fellow gardener Jon Stebbings. I spread a bail of straw over the entire garden to control the weeds and keep in moisture.

Rain and hail hit like a torrent the following 3 days, but so far all the plants look good.  I am considering putting up a fence to keep out the rabbits.  Until then, marigolds surround the garden as a natural deterrent to pests.  To say it is exciting to watch the garden grow is an understatement.  Each day I check on the plants and note their growth or their destruction in the case of cucumber leaves being eaten by some pest, perhaps slugs.  Not sure what to do about that. I’ve heard shallow dishes of beer attracts them to their death, putting fine wood shavings around the plants is also a deterrent.

Having a garden is a way to build self-sufficiency and to feel in control of the food I eat and my family eats.  Food is important to feed the soul as well as the body.  It is my goal to become more involved in the process of feeding our family by having it produced closer to home and with more of our own labor.

The poet and champion of the small farm Wendell Berry in his book of essays Bringing it to the Table (2009) reminds the reader of how good farms function:

” The particular farm, that is, must not be treated as any farm.  And the particular knowledge of particular places is beyond the competence of an centralized power or authority.  Farming by the measure of nature, which is to say the nature of the particular place, means that farmers must tend farms that they know and love, farms small enough to know and love, using tools and methods that they know and love, in the company of neighbors that they know and love ” (p. 9).

Iris Time

This is iris time.  Shades of blue, purple and yellow stalks rise stately above the soil like minature flags proclaiming spring, the season of renewal and hope.  In fact, blue flag is the name for the native iris that grows along the banks of inland lakes and ponds. In Chinese art, the flower is known as tze hu-tieh or “The purple Butterfly.”

The iris grows from bulbs or rhizomes and is easy to propagate. There are 200-300 flowers in the genus. According to the handbook, Wildflowers of North America, the iris has “six native and three escaped genera in North America.” Where does an iris go when it escapes?  Perhaps to the rich soil of a river bank or the hidden wilds of protected parkland.

The name iris originates from the Greek word for “rainbow.”   In Greek mythology, the goddess Iris is the messenger of the gods and the personification of the rainbow. She acts as a link between heaven and Earth. The tradition of planting irises over the graves of women is to summon the goddess to guide the dead in their journey.

In Egypt, ancient drawings of the iris can be found in a number of palaces. During the Middle Ages, the iris became linked to the French monarch.  The fleur-de-lis eventually became the recognized symbol of France.

Through-out time, the iris has been used to make perfume and as a remedy for aliments of the throat, lungs and liver.The root of the iris “Florentina” can be dried and chewed to alleviate bad breath.  As a remedy for stagnation, the flower essence of the iris can unlock our hidden abilities and help us to achieve our own creative potential.




A Guide to Field Identification, Wildflowers of North America. Golden Press, New York, 1984.

Living Arts Enterprises website

Power of Flowers, Healing Essence Company.  Isha Lerner Enterprises. website

Pro-Flower website

RD Handbooks: Herbs. Ed. Lesley Bremness.  The Reader’s Digest Association, Dorling Kindersley Limited, London,1990.