So perhaps you have wondered what we have been doing this summer without camp. We became gardeners!
All we had to do to make Travis and Annette laugh hysterically was to tell them that we intended to bring the camp garden back to life and make it our summer COVID project. They said, “What do you two know about growing a tomato?” In spite of our friends’ skepticism, we decided to plow ahead and see what we could do.
We first removed all the roots and weeds that had accumulated since last summer, rototilled the garden beds, and added some of our plentiful supply of horse manure. We trimmed the grass, brought in some mulch, and arranged the ½ barrel planters. We made our list of vegetables and spices we wanted to grow, and Jim headed to the local nursery. The nursery doesn’t supply garden vegetables because they are a lot of work for little financial reward, but this year they could have sold as much as they could provide with so many people starting gardens and small farms.
Luckily ACE Hardware had a healthy selection of starter plants. As the project began to unfold, we realized that we may know less than we thought about gardening. Jim found nearly everything on his list, except for lettuce. He saw the picture on the cabbage plants and thought that it looked a lot like lettuce, so the purchase was made. Upon Jim’s return to camp, Denice immediately noticed that Jim’s “lettuce substitute” wasn’t what she had in mind and started to think of things she might be able to make with an ample supply of cabbage!
As we started planting, we realized that all of the roots and “weeds” that Jim spent three hours digging out of one bed were in fact the mint we were about to plant. With the mild winter, the prior year’s mint had survived nicely and was thriving until Jim dug it up, of course!
Another brief setback was our potato crop. Annette mentioned that her son had planted a garden and that we could have some of his seed potatoes. We thought she said sweet potatoes, but it turns out that these are potato root cuttings that grow “real potatoes.” Annette passed the small bag to us, and we made a new spot for them in the garden. After planting them roots down, Annette was kind enough to point out that the eyes go up in order to promote proper growth. Back to the garden we went, and the potatoes are now thriving after being replanted properly.
After the planting was complete, Denice turned her attention to the organization of the garden hut. If you know Denice, you know she loves an organizational project. The garden shed was originally a beautiful mini-cabin built by the CMW Facilities Crew meant to be part of our Christmas Parade float following our Centennial summer. Unfortunately, the Christmas Parade was snowed out, but luckily we were able to use the tiny cabin as our garden tool shed. This summer we brought in some shelves and sifted through the tools and supplies. After Denice finished her Feng shui and Marie Kondo techniques, we had a tool shed to be proud of!
The excitement grew as the vegetables started to appear and we began making some very small and expensive salads…sans lettuce. Another exciting development was the appearance of the first tiny watermelon. In spite of our vast and newly developed gardening knowledge, we deferred to Jane Curtis who is a current Board member, master gardener, and landscape architect. During a recent visit, she showed Denice how to provide the little watermelon with a soft bed of small sticks and mulch to help it grow properly. Given the size and the slow growth, we’ll hope to have watermelon to share with campers next summer!
All kidding aside, we have all been challenged during this pandemic. Our lives have been uprooted, and our routines and activities have changed immeasurably. That being said, we always try to look for the good in bad situations. Gardening has been one of the very good things because it has been an activity that we enjoy together. It has been rewarding to eat and share the literal fruits (and vegetables) of our labor. While this was our first attempt at a real garden, it will remain a joint activity that we can enjoy for years to come. We hope you learned a new skill or found a new activity during this unusual summer. We miss you all and are counting down the days to the 2021 summer camp season!