Last week we went to Freed Estate vineyard with Kate the garden lady. We learned how to cut the vines, how the ship the grapes, and how the protect the harvest from the birds. They show us where they bring the guests during wine tours. They talked about how they were not a state of the art vineyard. Since the don’t have the tech a huge vineyard would have, they have no frost protection. The vineyard overseer says they hope their vines and grapes don’t freeze. The overseer said they leave the baby grape vines on a drip water system for three years before the vines can get water on there own.
For the last year, our two grape vines have been completely ignored… but we have changed that! A few weeks ago, a small group of students and the garden AmeriCorps coordinator Kate all went to Freed Estates Vineyard to educate ourselves on the process of growing, pruning, harvesting, and even fermenting the grapes.
With the newly acquired knowledge, we got some clippers and string. The string helps train the shoots to go in the direction we want them to go. Since the grape vines were badly neglected, there were shoots of vines going in every which direction. Throughout the growing season, the main vines grow nubs, lots of nubs. Each nub will turn into 3 different shoots, and each shoot will try to grow two bundles of grapes. If you don’t trim back last years shoots then they will make more nubs which make more shoots which make way more grapes. Sounds like a good thing, right? well no. If there are too many bundles and shoots on the vine, it will become overburdened and the grapes will not ripen. Not to mention the amount of shoots going in all directions(which makes a really bushy mess). each year the vine should have 70-90 percent of the plant cut off to keep the vine in order. We cut off about 75-80 percent of the entire vine this year. With each shoot we cut off from the main vine, we left two nubs nearest to the bottom of the shoot. this means that we will get six new shoots per old shoot. Because most of the vine is trimmed, it can now focus on ripening the fruit, which is exactly what we want!
Trevor and I built garden beds out of cedar planks that were 25 ft long by 4 ft wide and 4 inches tall. These new beds will be used to plant things like lettuce and marigolds. We plant marigolds to keep away certain types of bugs that eat up plants and destroy the crop. The type of bugs that we want to keep away are nematodes and sometimes tomato worms.
We give the lettuce to the kitchen here at Phoenix School so that the kitchen can use it in the salad bar. I like to eat at the salad bar when the hot lunch options do not sound good.
We also build garden beds to keep the plants and flowers we plant from spreading to the walkways. It also keeps us from accidentally hitting the plants with the weed-eater.
Choosing a plant in which to highlight can be very fun, tricky and tedious. You must know what plant seems interesting and what that plant might have to offer to humans and other creatures alike. Whilst searching the garden I happened upon a lovely bush full of purple bunches that the bees loved. This, I would soon realize, was Lavender.
Lavender is the common name of Lavandula augustifolia, a fragrant shrub that is native to the Mediterranean. Lavender can be used in many ways including aromatically, medicinally and within the culinary arts.
Using Lavender to relax is a very common practice. You can find lavender in lotions, soaps, bath oils and many other relaxing products. Some will say that lavender does wonders on the mind for it is a soothing properties and they wouldn’t be wrong. Lavender contains an oil that has a known sedating effect.
Medicinally, Lavender is known to have many benefits. The herb might help you cope with your anxiety and depression as well as help those sleep who have insomnia. You can also use it for pain, acne and upset stomach. The list really does go on.
Some are surprised when they find out that they can use Lavender in the kitchen… and I was to! Though it may most commonly be used in a spice like the French herb blend known as “herbes de provence”. You can also use it in baking and herbal tea blends.
Lavender truly can be a wonderful plant to remember, though many might stumble by it without much thought. I am glad I was curious to look to lavender to know more about.
When I work with Kate in the garden, I usually wait till she is done talking to other students to see what she wants me to do. She usually asks me to cut the broccoli that needs to be cut and the lettuce. If I don’t get asked to do that I pick weeds that are growing by the vegetables I mostly pick the weeds growing by the vegetables with Justine. Or re-plant flowers which I only did once and pull weeds. I sometimes go and pet Oz when I’m working. Kate also sends me out to go deliver the vegetables that need to go to the kitchen.
If you find yourself wondering into the Phoenix School Garden this time of year you will see many blueish purple flowers sprawled out among the garden. These beauties are known as Borage (Borago officinalis) though may also be known as the Star Flower. It is an annual herb that is originally from the Mediterranean but also does well in climates like our own.
Traditionally, humans cultivated Borage for its medicinal and culinary uses though recently we have been cultivating it for its Borage seed oil. Borage has a cucumber like taste which can be desirable within salads or as a garnish. The Flower has a honey like taste which makes for a lovely touch atop a desert.
Medicinally, Borage can be very useful and nutritious. It contains high levels of vitamin C, vitamin A and iron. Though there are plenty of health benefits you should take caution when exploring the medicinal properties for it contains compounds that may have negative affects on the kidneys.
Borage is truly an amazing plant to have around and we are thankful to be able to see it bloom within our garden this spring.