The Garden's Plan

definition of "grow" (from the dictionary)

[groh]  verb, grew, grown, grow·ing.
verb (used without object)
1. to increase by natural development, as any living organism or part by assimilation of nutriment; increase in size or substance.
2. to form and increase in size by a process of inorganic accretion, as by crystallization.
3. to arise or issue as a natural development from an original happening, circumstance, or source: Our friendship grew from common interests. increase gradually in size, amount, etc.; become greater or larger; expand: His influence has grown. become gradually attached or united by or as if by growth: The branches of the trees grew together, forming a natural arch.

The farm is all about growing—obviously the vegetables we plant, 
but also about our own growth. Others have written about how
 "gardening can be considered a metaphor for life." 
And the more time and effort we spend farming, the more we understand this. 
Executive Chef John Toulze has talked before about how "farming teaches us how to cook," as we pay attention to the seasons of the farm which may or may not 
fit the season as we expect. The ongoing work at the farm teaches us patience in broader ways as well—applied as we work the land, plant the seeds 
and tend our plants as they grow according to their own plan. 

John planting seeds for cover crops
some growing better than others
Then like most important lessons in life, the patience we bring 
to this project somehow becomes a greater part of our lives. 
"The thing about gardening is that you realize you can’t rush things. 
A seed takes a certain amount of time to sprout, no matter what you do."
the collard plants seem to be thriving

broccoli starting to grow

"A plant or tree takes a certain amount of time to grow, flower, 
or bear fruit, no matter what you do—some things grow as we intend, others do not." 
This may seem like a simple concept, but it is often challenging 
to apply to other areas of our lives. 
Which is why gardening is a good reminder to us in how to live. 
Because the garden has its own planand the plants, with perhaps 
a bit of help from us, and a lot of nurturing from nature will grow as they will.
Some plants are flourishing at the farm and some are not doing as well.
the lower beds when they were just planted
most of the plants are beginning thriving
but we are not sure about the beets yet
This is especially true at this time of year. 
We worked hard to get the winter crops planted before the rains 
especially the cover crops necessary to nourish the soil 
throughout the winter in preparation for spring planting. 
the clover beds will do well this winter
and most of the vegetables in the lower beds
should soon be on the menu at the girl & the fig
radishes are always growing at the farm
photo by Steven Krause
to keep up with demand for our heirloom radish starter,
perennial favorite on the menu at "the fig."
Chinese snow peas 
and our lush kale always thrives at the farm

on the menu now at the girl & the fig:
braised short rib, yukon gold potato croquettes, braised kale, natural jus

Do you find gardening meditative? 
Does your time in the garden help you clear your head or find creative solutions? 
Or, does it just help you relax as you muse on what to cook with what you grow?


Under cover crops?

While we plant vegetables that will inspire the chefs this winter, 
part of the seasonal plan for our farm is planting cover crops. 
"Planting a cover crop brings many benefits. It can improve the soil, prevent erosion, enhance drainage, inhibit weeds and attract beneficial insects,"
 which makes this practice a significant part of our biodynamic farming
"Cover cropping and crop rotations are two organic gardening practices 
that can protect and rejuvenate soils, while fostering 
balanced, biological diverse garden ecosystems."
fava beans planted behind the fig
Mustard is another good cover crop-hard to see,
but there are small green bits of mustard starting to grow
Growing Your Greens is the most watched gardening show on YouTube. 
In this episode, John Kuhler demonstrates "harvesting" mature fava bean plants, 
not to eat them (although you can do that), but to either cut them down 
or plow them under to access the rich nitrogen this cover plant 
brings to the soil. Fava beans are "nitrogen fixing" plants 
which pull nitrogen from the air and put it into the soil. 
In a few months, we will be doing something similar to this 
at the farm to reap the benefits of the fava beans we are planting now. 
This video gives you a good idea how to do this, even in a small space at home. 
You will get a close-up view of the root nodules that are "nitrogen central" for this plant. 

Our farm project encompasses the garden behind the fig 
(where our farm-to-table all started) and the farm at 
Imagery Estate Winery and we have cover crops at both locations.
fava seeds
fava beans as cover crops
Simultaneous with our work at the farm, we are keeping things 
going behind the fig: In addition to our cover crops, microgreens in the greenhouse 
and the worm bin, we are planning to create an insectary in the back area
two varieties of thyme in the greenhouse

new micro greens to plant
the worm bin a few weeks after creating it-
how many worms are in there?
the beginning of the insectary
Matt from Local Landscapers is starting the insectary
with wildflower seeds. He is still deciding what else to plant.
The farm at the fig also includes the raised beds right outside the greenhouse. 
In the summer, herbs overflow here making it easy for the chefs 
to dash outside the kitchen door to pick just what they need. 
Now the raised beds offer quick transport and protected spots 
for some of our fragile starts.

these onions growing in the raised beds

started out small in the greenhouse 

soon there will be onions ready for the kitchen
onions on the grill at the girl & the fig
All the work we do is a part of the cycle of 
farm to table and we keep it going all year long, 
no matter what the season.


"Cold proofing your salad"

Knowing that the rains were coming, we doubled down 
on what needed to be done at the farm. There was emphasis on 
completing the work on the beds so the soil would be nourished 
and well treated prior to the soaking that is sure to come. 
And on this day of toil, as the days were getting shorter, 
heralding winter, we did our first round of planting 
the vegetables that will be our winter garden.

As we labored, we noticed the last hurrah from summer, 
red peppers still ready for picking, reminded us of summer 
while they resemble Christmas ornaments on a tree. 
By the time you are reading this, the peppers have been picked 
and have lent their tangy spice to one last dish this season. 
But this winter, we will still be able to enjoy our peppers 
from the farm–there are no doubt chili flakes in the pantry 
from peppers John dried on the roof at ESTATE this summer!

The other trophy from this summer's garden are the 
last tomatoes that didn't ripen in time for chef magic, but will 
become part of the rich compost we create as the farm 
changes from one season to the next. All part of the ongoing cycle 
of our biodynamic farm, ensuring the most sustainable use of everything at the farm. 

And, so we are now truly in winter garden mode. 
The sunchokes that rose up taller than most of us, are all gone, 
with only a few stubborn tubers still clinging to the ground. 

We've dug those up and cleared away the plants. 
Sunchokes can be obstinate insisting on staying or recurring, 
which is why we planted them at the end of the rows near a path. 
can you believe these "homely" looking tubers would adorn
a dish served at the James Beard house?

But those same deep roots that may be willful about recurring 
bring nutrients far down into the soil benefiting other plants.  
John is still deciding what to plant here. 
While he ponders what to do here in the upper beds,
the plan for the lower beds has been set. We will have 
radishes, chioggia beets, collards, bok choy, Chinese snow peas and broccoli. 
A hearty and diverse winter garden sure to inspire the chefs 
lower beds planted with vegetables

all those veggies as starts in the greenhouse prior to planting
Spicing up the vegetables in our winter garden, 
as well as for the chefs in the kitchens, 
we are growing walla walla and Italian torpedo onions, 
which also were nurtured as starts in the greenhouse 
at "the fig" before planting in the ground. 

row of Italian torpedo onions just getting started
You can be inspired by these reliable vegetables 
whether you are growing them in your winter garden or finding them at a farmer's market. Always good to steam or roast, some of these vegetables can become a winter salad, 
so creative and tasty, it just might rival what you do in the lush days of summer. 
Popular food writer, Mark Bittman recently wrote about "cold proofing your salad:" 
"With all due respect to tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and all the other vegetables 
we’ve enjoyed for the last few months, the champions of the moment 
are beets, turnips and radishes. Incredibly — though not surprisingly, 
since there are no surprises here — the beets, turnips and radishes 
give you greens to use in salads or for cooking,
 as well as roots you can eat raw or cooked."  
Mark also has some interesting tidbits to sharedid you know that 
"beets are chard grown primarily for their roots; 
chard is beets grown for its greens"—and some great recipes
the beet salad at the girl & the fig
will be the product of these beets just beginning at the farm

we are always growing chard and radishes at the farm
It's important to us to keep our farm growing even in the winter.

What are you planting for this season? 
Any recipes to share for winter vegetables?