Experiments in the Garden

Steva Dooley
The Cook's Corner

I have always been a person that likes to try new things. Rick, on the other hand, is a “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it” person. One of the biggest places that has clashed is planting the garden. Rick is a straight row, measured distance, perfectly laid out type of gardener. I tend to be more of a “throw the seeds out there and see what grows best” gardener.
I have started a major revolt this last year. In fact, I have been planning this for few years. It is a layered garden system called “lasagna gardening.” Layers of cardboard for weed control, plant matter, manure and old hay are put in the garden and allowed to mulch down. I have two beds started — although not as soon as I should have started them — and a third to layer. The onions — remember my 15,000 onions? — got layered and mulched today. I brought several boxes of old newspapers home from the office so a layer of papers went down between the rows, then leaves and straw on top of that. As the onions grow, I will top it with hay. I left a couple of rows and tried something different.
I read that corn gluten meal was a great pre-emergent weed controller and yesterday a neighbor brought us a barrel full of finely ground corn. It had gotten wet and clumped and was no longer useable for feed, except maybe for chickens. I hoed out those two rows and then spread a good layer of that corn between the rows. We will see what happens.
One of my victories many years ago was when I broad-seeded carrots on a small patch of ground. I made sure it was watered twice a day until they were growing well and then went to twice a week watering until harvest time. I also planted them about the first of August. But come October I had a wonderful crop of carrots. Enough to last us all winter! I remember being told that it would never work, it was the wrong time, it was the wrong way to plant, etc., but it worked and I was amazed. As were some other people around me.
I have planted my potatoes in tubs for the past several years. I tried some other things, but they were failures. Things like building a box and planting them at the bottom, then adding boards and soil and mulch as the vines grew. It was a dismal failure for me at least, but I have had pretty good luck with tubs. We don’t use a great amount of potatoes so a few tubs will give me all I need.
So some of my experiments work and some don’t, but I learn from each of them. And that is the goal: to learn what works, what doesn’t and how to make it easier.
Switchel, sometimes called “Haymakers punch.”

Haymakers punch
- 1 cup ginger, chopped
- ½ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2/3 cup lemon juice
- 6 cups water.
Fill a 2-quart saucepan 2/3 with water and add ginger. Bring to a boil and allow ginger to boil for about 2 minutes; remove from heat and let ginger steep for 20 minutes. In a 2-quart pitcher, add maple syrup, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. Strain ginger as you are pouring into pitcher. Stir and mix ingredients well. Can be served warm or on ice. More water can be added to dilute to taste.