by Rita Bergstedt, Head Chester Gardens Gardener
I don’t know who wrote these words so I don’t know who to credit, but when I saw them I knew it
was the total and complete truth. “Anyone who thinks gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the year … for gardening begins in January with the dream.”
For several weeks, starting the end of December, the seed catalogs start arriving, and the
dreaming begins. Sitting down with the catalogs in front of the fire with a cup of coffee (or wine,
even)… is a most wonderful, soulful winter activity. My musings recently brought me back to the fall of 2013 when I first put pencil to paper and drew up the plan of raised beds for the newly built gardens that would grace the beautiful new building at 1831 E. 8th St, bordering 19th Ave. East. Carla Blumberg’s dream to have a garden that would supply vegetables to At Sara’s Table Chester Creek Cafe was close to fruition. We leveled the lower level, put down landscape fabric, then built 10 large raised beds, mulched the walkways and filled the beds with compost literally moments before the first early snow. I was satisfied that we would be ready to begin early plantings the next spring while building the upper level beds by late spring 2014.
By mid- July of 2014 the gardens were in full glory with many varieties of lettuce and kale,
beautiful celeriac, stocky leeks, brussel sprouts, tomatillos, Italian green beans, and every color
beet you could imagine.That first year’s garden was a tremendous success, with the able assistance of Abby DeVita a garden rock star who then came back for 2015, assisted by Jessica Volk. The cafe kitchen was inundated both years with produce that was actually hard to keep up with! Succession planting was the norm, with several beds actually producing 3 different crops in one year.
Part of 2016 dreaming includes how to extend the season and perhaps have winter crops that are covered with mini-hoop houses or straw. Last fall we planted one bed very very late in the season of spinach, and after germination and a week’s growth we covered it with straw. I’m so excited to see the results when we remove that straw, hopefully early April. It is a cold-hardy crop that I’m hoping by first of May we will have our first crop to harvest! Stay tuned and I’ll show you pictures!
As you may have noticed, we have a wonderful greenhouse to start our seedlings, plus we plant basil directly into large pots and grow it in the greenhouse. Our first harvest begins in the latter part of June (right there in the greenhouse) and as a bed becomes available, we give those plants a jolt of new life by transplanting them outside. More basil seeds are then germinating because you can NEVER EVER have enough basil. On the east side of the Cafe’s parking lot, we have yet another raised bed garden. We call it the“Parking Lot Garden”, and have grown all sorts of herbs as well as climbing Italian green beans forming 8 ft. high towers of green. Next year we’ll do those gorgeous beans in the main gardens they didn’t quite get enough sun to produce in the shaded Parking Lot Garden, yet the pyramids of beans were spectacular looking. Keep your eyes open to giant teepees in Chester Gardens. The beans are huge, luscious flat green beans that are tender tender tender! and delicious.
Another thing I want to plant are Peruvian Blue Potatoes. I’ve grown them in my home garden
for 2 years and find them the most amazing, stunning, tasty and nutritious potato ever. So next
late summer, watch for them to appear as part of the menu, or as specials. My goal is to grow vegetables that are deeply colored (more beautiful, more nutritious)! The past two seasons have produced some absolutely gorgeous greens and I’ll be dreaming of more.
If you’d like to talk garden talk, or have some ideas, don’t hesitate to send me an email.
Stay tuned… and happy time dreaming!
P.S. Abby DeVita’s blog of the 2014 garden is a treat to check out!