Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman
From the Ground Up: Gardens Re-Imagined
February 18, 2010
Where can you get two hours of pleasure
on a chilly day in New York City?
Listening to Barbara Damrosch talk about gardening.
20 years after writing, the classic The Garden Primer, Barbara still has something new to say and she is still gardening, even on a bigger scale. Damrosch spoke at the New York Botanical Garden, as part of From The Ground Up series. Sometimes, a person’s writing style is like their personality. Barbara is one of those people; clear, precise, enthusiastic and open to new ideas.
Here are the facts:
- She owns 40 acres in Maine
- Her vegetable production garden is one and half acres
- Each acre produces $80,000
- 19% of the soil is organic
- Succession planting
- Crew of 6
What’s the most important part of any garden?
SOIL, SOIL, SOIL = COMPOST, COMPOST, COMPOST
Besides being an advocate for organic gardening, Barbara spoke about the luxury of eating each vegetable at its perfect moment. She focused on cool season crops. Trying to make us realize that it is possible to eat many vegetables straight through the winter, even in Maine. Of course, greenhouses help, but not necessarily.
Maybe if you have a vegetable garden; you do love to cook. Damrosch mentioned several different preparations for beets, celeriac and escarole salad with lardon which is as common as a baguette in France. Barbara had a wonderful photograph of a field of escarole in france. As we all know the centers of escarole, when you buy it in the supermarket are pale yellowish-white and the outer leaves are green. In this photograph, white pot covers were placed in the center of each plant to keep that part of the plant from getting any sunlight, thus causing the center to be bleached in color and have a slightly bitter taste. Apparently this technique has been used around Lyon, France for a more then a century.
During the Q&A, it was inevitable that someone would ask about the tomato blight and what should be done or could be done. Barbara’s point: pests are attracted to stressed plants and its important to figure out why a particular plant is stressed, whether its soil, water, etc. It’s a process of discovery.
Along with her other practical advice this one was a real winner:
Use your shopvac to vacuum off pests, beetles, etc. from the leaves of plants
The minute the talk ended, I rushed home to start ordering more and more seeds.
Here is Barbara’s List of Varieties for an Extended Season:
Beet and beet greens ‘Bull’s Blood’ and ‘Red Ace’
Carrot ‘Napoli (winter) ‘Mokum’ (spring)
Calytonia (Montia perfoliata)
Argula ‘Astro’ and ‘Sylvetta’
Artichoke ‘Imperial Star’
Bean ‘Fortex’, ‘Garden of Eden’ ‘E-Z Pick’
Broccoli ‘De Cicco’
Endive ‘Biana Riccia’ (baby leaf) ‘Tres Fine Maraichere’, Belgian ‘Totem’
Cucumber ‘Socrates’ (in greenhouse)
Eggplant ‘Orient Express’
Asian greens: Tatsoi, Mizuna, Komatsuna, Tokyo Bekana, Mei Qing Choi, Red Choi
Lettuce (baby leaf) ‘Red Oak Leaf’ ‘Rouge d’Hiver,’ ‘Tango’ ‘Winter Density’
Lettuce (head) ‘Rex’ ‘Lolla Rosa’ ‘Flashy Troutback’ ‘Red Rosie’
Onion ‘Olympic (overwintered under cover) ‘Copra (storage) ‘Mars’
Tomato ‘New Girl’ ‘Big Beef’ ‘Sapho’ ‘Juliet’ ‘Amish Paste’ ‘Sungold’
Potato ‘Rose Gold’ ‘Charlotte’
Winter squash ‘Waltham Butternut’
Sweet Potato ‘Beauregard’
Swiss Chard ‘Fordhook’ ‘Argentata’ ‘Orange Chiffon’
Minutina (buck’s horn plantain0
Belgian endive ‘Totem’
Asparagus ‘Jersey Knight’
Brussels sprots ‘Diablo’
Cauliflower ‘Cheddar’ ‘Fremont’
Melon ‘Gold Star’ ‘Savor’
Scallion ‘Evergreen Hardy White’
Pepper ‘Ace’ ‘Ancho’ ‘Quadrato d’Asti’
Jigkrabu ‘Kongo’ ‘Kilibri’