In Our Summer 2016 Issue
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Eat Your Veggies: The Geology of Lake Michigan Gardening
It’s summer time and that means one thing around the Gast household – the battle with the soil has begun.
Well, actually, we don’t really have soil but rather we have sand. My wife Leslie and I live on the shore of Sturgeon Bay that is an inlet off Green Bay that is an inlet off Lake Michigan. It’s one of the grand freshwater seas with a remarkable history, one that I’m sure has something to do with the poor condition of my soil.
At some time in the geologic history of the area, my house was probably submerged which ultimately led to the formation of a beach as the water receded. We know things grow on beaches but it’s just not the variety of vegetable and fl ower that Leslie would prefer to have. A nice palm tree would be nice, but Wisconsin’s current climate is not appropriate for coconut production.
Research has shown that lake levels have been hundreds of feet higher and lower than at present. As a result, shorelines have changed drastically and, unfortunately for us, it hasn’t been for the better.
Grass is the predominant plant along the shoreline, its basic job being to hamper erosion and look nice and green. As long as Mother Nature cooperates, we have a nice lawn. A week or so without rain and the grass begins to go dormant which is another way of saying it quits. It’s our lawn but it is maintained by the city as a scenic byway, which means it has to deal with the temperamental turf.
I try spout-to-blade resuscitation by way of my sprinkler on the lawn closest to my house only to remind myself that I’m watering a beach.
So for the last few years, Leslie has experimented with some of the latest fads regarding alternative beds so she can actually grow some fruits and vegetables on the beach.
She built a raised bed garden in the backyard that has produced nicely especially since the house protects it from wind and sun that are normally associated with a beach. But space is limited and the house is only so big, so we won’t be visiting the farmers market with excess produce. Actually, a nice meal or three constitutes a celebration of the harvest.
To augment that production, Leslie has tried a couple of more unconventional approaches to raising vegetables, each of which required a little hunting.
For those of you into the alternative methods to conventional gardens, straw bales and pallets probably aren’t all that surprising. But based the reaction she’s received from many of those who have seen these beds, it’s still not widely accepted.
The pallet garden made a lot of sense to me. The spaces between the wood slats provide perfect alignment for the rows and rich, black soil can be inserted in them to insure healthy and happy plants. Then I read about how pallets with untreated lumber should be used because, well, treated lumber and food doesn’t seem particularly appetizing. I’m pretty sure she’s using untreated wood this year and splinters are always a hazard.
As for the bales, it all seems a bit too bizarre for me and I don’t believe she’s had any success to date with producing a consumable product. But it’s worth a try since the beach wasn’t dong any better and it makes a heck of a conversation piece.
Thank God for the farmers market.
Jon Gast, Co-Owner/Editor of Edible Door