Putting the gardens to bed.

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

After the Pumpkin Soup Lunch Grand Finale, it's time to put the gardens to bed and get our final soil-building and winter-plantings in the ground. Each year, the haybales rot down and we add a fresh layer of haybales "legos" to build up the terraced beds, then fill them with leaves, compost, soil and manure. Garlic, camas, and fava beans are our winter go-to's. In the early spring, we'll sprinkle on kale seeds and tuck in lettuce starts.

The week started with 60 haybales, grown and delivered by Mark Hughes, who went to SSE as a child. On Monday, Tiffany's grades 5-6 students carried and rolled the haybales down into the garden to their general locations, and I stayed on in the rain to dig out their footings and arrange them to restore our terraced beds for the new year. Two classes of K-1's gathered leaves to start filling the new beds, then jumped on the bales to secure them into place!

The next morning, a surprise load of fallen leaves had been delivered by Tony Copeland, Grounds Manager, which were enough to fill the beds. Two grades 1-2 classes had fun filling the new beds and jumping into the leaves, too. Then, we all held and sipped small jars of apple spice and honey tea to warm up.

Wednesday was my Dad's 70th birthday party at our home, so I took the afternoon off. Then Thursday, the grades 5-6 classes spread bags of compost and manure over the leaves and planted garlic bulbs, and enjoyed tea and conversation. Each class came up with their own garden ABC's, thinking up something in the garden that corresponded with each letter. I forgot to take pictures...

The following Monday, I was under the weather. Spence Pentland, another avid parent, stepped up and helped the K-1 classes plant beautiful fava beans, delivered by Dan Jason of Salt Spring Seeds. Dan carries 8 varieties of these broad beans! From yellow, to green, to purple to black! These promise to be fun as fava shish-kebabs in the springtime ~

Tuesday, it was time to revitalize our Blue Camas Lily bed. Camas was arguably the most important food plant for Coast Salish people here, with high starch and sugar content, complementing the proteins and oils of fish. The bulbs are kind of like a sweet onion, but when roasted, much sweeter and stickier. Our bed hasn't thrived, perhaps it needs more water and nutrients, so we'll try for that this year.

That morning, I picked up 200 camas bulbs from Frasers Thimble Farm, where Richard Fraser and team grow them from local seeds. At home, I dug deeper into stories and history of camas farming in this region, so I could share more with the kids. Here are some great links:

"Camas, an Educational Resource," by Elise Krohn, including a wonderful story of how camas came to be by Roger Fernandes, Lower Elwha S’Klallam.

“Restoring Camas and Culture to Lekwungen and Victoria,” Focus Magazine, 2006: An interview with Lekwungen Cheryl Bryce.

“Camas Country,” from beaconhillparkhistory.org

and "Coast Salish Camas Cultivation - HistoryLink.org" by Russel Barsh and Madrona Murphy.

(these big bulbs below are from the Kwiaht research garden, Lopez Island, in the nearby San Juans, which I hope to visit someday)

Tuesday afternoon, we shared the story, some history, described how they were similar to "fart"ichokes (sunchokes) with their inulin sugars that must be converted through long roasting, and then we weeded our bed, updates the signage with Indigenous words, and planted the extra camas bulbs.

Friday, we wood-chipped trails and cleaned up hoses and tools, then reflect on the garden season with appreciated experiences and hopes for spring while sipping hot cocoa.

The final last week, we mulched all those beds filled with garlic & fava, got the last food forest seedlings in the ground, and cleaned the Mason Bee cocoons in our B.O.B. nesting boxes with lightly-bleached water (photo above) to put them away for winter. See you in the springtime!