by Rita Bergstedt, Head Chester Gardens Gardener
The first gatherings of the garden in May of salads, radishes and herbs made me feel like a mother about her baby – how could anything so beautiful be mine. And this emotion of wonder filled me for each vegetable as it was gathered every year. There is nothing that is comparable to it, as satisfactory or as thrilling, as gathering the vegetables one has grown.
– Alice B.Toklas
The 2016 Chester Gardens proved to be the best ever in the three years it has been built and in production. In April we covered each inch of bed with a blanket of lovely compost, ensuring a continuing living, fertile medium for all the veggies to come.
Leading up to that of course, was the time of dreaming, planning, and starting seeds in our greenhouse. Lee worked hard at cleaning beds, spreading compost, and planting those first seeds, beets, onions, shallots, leeks, greens and spinach.
Kate S. joined the garden effort in mid-June after moving to Duluth from the Cities. She has worked in several small farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin bring a new level of expertise and dedication to Chester Gardens. Late in the season Jess V. returned to help out after world travels and an intense interest in farming fueling her desire to see Chester Gardens thrive. So happy she is committed to helping through next summer!! Both Kate and Jess balance their work time in the gardens with serving and working at the Cafe.
Chester Gardens is the fruition of a vision by owner, Carla Blumberg. Her commitment to this effort to provide the freshest veggies to At Sara’s Table/ Chester Creek Cafe is the driving force behind these beautiful gardens.
Several personal favorites of mine this year were Ama Rosa Fingerlings and Purple Magestic Potatoes, which were tremendously successful as well as delectable. My own personal belief is that the more pigment in a vegetable the more tasty and nutritious and I also select varieties for their beauty as well as for their nutritional value.
Coordinating our efforts with Chester Creek Cafe’s Kitchen is essential, and I’m hoping to make the gardens in 2017 better yet. Over the next several months we will be creating “the PLAN”… deciding what to plant, when to plant it. Amy N. developed a rotation plan to ensure a healthy, productive 3 year rotation of plantings. We will refine that rotation plan in preparation for planting the 2017 gardens.
One really amazing thing is that a number of our beds were planted TWICE, while several beds saw THREE successive crops, and one or two beds actually had FOUR successive plantings. Our long days and proper plant selections (not to mention a very long growing season in 2016) contributed to that success. The very last things to come out of the garden in early November were kale as well as hearty very small greens, beets, and leeks!
Very late in the season Darcee D. created tamarack beds around all the previously mounded beds, making them much larger and easier to garden so our available space will be greatly enhanced this 2017 season.
While gathered around the fireplace with below zero outside…all planting beds covered with a lovely blanket of snow…I’m dreaming of those first little green shoots that will emerge to give hope and nourishment to us all.
Also, check out this article, “Warmer, Wetter Minnesota”. This link shows the temperatures of the Twin Cities area in 2016.