Miriam’s garden is the sort of place that makes you want to stay a while. Towering zinnias wave above your head in bright hues, while a luscious patch of strawberry leaves invites you to lay down and take a little nap. Basil and peppers spill unapologetically over the edges of their beds. Sweet potatoes stretch out as much as they can. “No one is using this fallow bed, we won’t be a bother” they must think, as they creep across the aisles.
The garden beds are laid out in a perfect balance of order and unpredictability, making it easy to get around while you to explore the nooks and crannies. Petite logs with the bark still intact encompass some beds, while others are lined by large rocks from the woods. And the garden gate, oh, that majestic sculpture of a gate has the power to make you forget where you were going or what you were doing and enter the garden instead.
Miriam and I didn’t mean to spend hours in her garden the other day. I even tried to remind her that she told me she had so much to do that day, and that she couldn’t spend all her time in the garden. Still, little lettuces were hungry, and naked beds begged for crimson clover seeds to blanket them. There was much to do, and we were happy to tend to the tasks at hand.
Two weeks earlier we had drawn a map and numbered the beds. Then we sampled the soil according to how the beds had been managed. Now, with the data back from the lab, I was here to help her measure out precise levels of fertilizers. All of the nutrient levels look pretty good, so we only applied nitrogen in the form of bat guano.
In the two weeks since I had been there, Miriam had constructed an impressive bamboo trellis for the sweet peas. I love that she used zip ties, which won’t rot like twine, to build the trellis. I will certainly be using that trick in the spring.
We tried to use a refractometer to measure the Brix level of various greens, but I haven’t yet figured out how to extract enough juice from leaves for testing. Brix is something that is new to me, and I’d like to keep track of Brix levels as we adjust the amounts and types of amendments used in the garden. It is supposed to be a way to measure how nutrient-dense your produce is.
This abundant little garden is a luscious escape just outside of Chapel Hill, NC, that is rejuvenating both nutritionally and spiritually. Miriam is willing to be my guinea pig as I learn about tending soils with the intent of growing nutrient-dense food, and I’m excited to help her and others grow better food in beautiful places.by