Garden of the Gods, Oh Yeah.

by Claudius J West

jurassic park gateThe true garden of the Gods and Goddesses belongs to my sister Angela who maintains a 30,000 square foot vegetable garden and fruit orchard at her rural Minnesota home surrounded by at 12-foot high anti-deer fence that when gazed upon recalls the feeling inspired at the start of Jurassic Park when Sam Neill and company pass through that movie’s Disney-esque gates for the first time into a land of miracles and danger.

Her garden is a work of envy—the buried drip hoses, the mulched beds, a layout like the scientific and precise architecture of a microchip. What does she use for bug-control? Ducks, geese and chickens roaming freely throughout.

All of that is more than I could hope for in this my second effort at growing my own produce.

Why grow a garden? Because it’s all organic, super-fresh, cheap, cheap, cheap, and provides useful exercise—a lot of exercise.

I could lessen the exercise load considerably by renting a rototiller from Home Depot, as I did for our first garden.

I have since learned, however, that a rototiller isn’t ideal for the health of one’s soil. Why? Bacteria in the soil (that work to make the soil nutritious for plants) live in their own strata specific to that bacteria. Mixing the strata with a rototiller is counterproductive, jumbles up the underground neighborhoods. Also, a rototiller discombobulates the earthworms.

(Not only do earthworms burrowing through the soil loosen compacted dirt and produce tunnels for air to get down to the roots of plants that need it, but the very movement of the worms’ bodies through tunnels work like pistons to force air through soil. Pretty cool, right?)

Better than a rototiller, and better than the traditional method of turning soil over with a spade, is to stick a gardening fork as deep as it will go and wiggle it around. Do this up and down the garden bed until the soil is well loosened and aerated.

With the poor, shale-sticken soil we’ve got, sometimes a gardening fork isn’t enough because it justmattock won’t penetrate. That’s when the mattock comes into play. The pick end of a mattock does a good job of smashing through shale that a fork can’t handle. Swinging a mattock will give you quite an excellent workout.

When making new beds, the mattock is tremendously useful in chopping through turf using the flat, cutting end—be ready to sweat.

This year, the only tool more appreciated than the mattock has been the wheelbarrow.

Ms. Immortal raised a skeptical eyebrow when I insisted a wheelbarrow was something we definitely needed. Now that she has seen it in action, particularly when hauling many bags of topsoil and composted manure from the driveway to our various garden beds, she is a believer in the goodness of the wheelbarrow.

We have planted our garden with the intention that we will be doing a lot of juicing; thus, many beds of beets, cucumbers and carrots. Probably the kale is going to get juiced, too. It would be nice to have grown celery (my sister does), but it looks a bit too complicated a process for a newbie like me.

We overdid it with the tomatoes, no doubt about it: more than 60 plants. Luckily, there are so many things one can do with tomatoes: salsa, sauce, juice, slices, and canning as much of what remains as we can bear.

Our earliest (mid-May) takings have been lettuce and spinach. I collect them in the morning still wet with dew and pop them in the blender with a cup of water for making a light smoothie. The taste is quite inoffensive and as close to pleasant as I have experienced in a vegetable smoothie.

The only snag is the raw spinach, which has some amount of genistein, a goitrogen, in it. Goitrogens mess with a person’s thyroid, interfering with thyroid peroxidase. You might be surprised how many vegetables, and even fruits, have goitrogens in them, such as broccoli, kale, cabbage, peaches, pears, strawberries, and several more.

Cooking partially inactivates goitrogens. If I had a microwave, I’d try nuking my spinach a while to see what would result. But I don’t have a microwave, so I’ll stick with the goitrogens, for now.

Last summer, I ate huge spinach salads nearly every day, but always with an added avocado. David “Avocado” Wolfe says that avocados counteract goitrogens. I hope he’s right.

 What else do we have in the garden? 

  • Aubergines (eggplants), probably too many of those
  • two bell pepper plants—they didn’t come out so good last time and I was reluctant to do any at all but Ms. Immortal insisted
  • cabbage
  • a teepee worth of beans (we just bought the 10 foot pvc pipes to form the teepee)
  • parsley—high in vitamin C, and good for detoxing (they say)
  • raspberries
  • rhubarb
  • and two scrawny blueberry bushes from the year before that have been an utter disappointment.

Yet to be planted:

Radishes, because I read they’ve got healthy stuff in them (“Sulforaphane: studies suggest that sulforaphane has a proven role against prostate, breast, colon and ovarian cancers by virtue of its cancer-cell growth inhibition, and cyto-toxic effects on cancer cells. In addition, they contain adequate levels of folates, vitamin B-6, riboflavin, thiamin and minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper and calcium.”*)


Zucchini: because I really like gazpacho.

The Herbs: basil, thyme, rosemary, chives, cilantro. I’d rather put these in pots than in the garden so that they can be moved indoors once the season is over.

If you can stand the heat, a good time to plan your gardening activities, as I do, is around noontime so that you can take advantage of sunlight on your skin producing the vitamin D we all need.

What’s my biggest garden headache? Diablo, the forty-pound hell-woodchuck and destroyer of gardens. More on him another time.







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