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11 August  Garden Four:  Millner garden by the Planter Box

a garden of edible beauty

a garden of edible beauty

For many years, the Millner family have operated a garden center and feed store called The Planter Box.  When I first moved here, the store was run by parents Ray and Barbara.  Now it is in the capable hands of son and daughter Raymond and Teresa,  with Barbara and Ray still turning their expertise to seed growing and plant propagation.  Here is where we buy all sorts of garden supplies and where farmers buy hay, horse treats, poultry feed, and even baby ducks, chickens, and rabbits.  Two of the family homes are right next door and in the huge back yard, Ray has created a vegetable garden that is a thing of beauty.  All the tour goers were treated to a guided tour by Ray himself of the extensive garden.

Ray waits to guide us through the garden.

Ray waits to guide us through the garden.

Ray used to be a teacher and gives a very good garden talk.

Ray used to be a teacher and gives a very good garden talk.

family homes and garden

family homes and garden

Ray and Barbara feed an entire extended family from this garden.  I think he said six people, maybe more, with enough left over to have a produce table at the Long Beach Grange farmers market.

I found this garden deeply inspirational in its classic formal vegetable garden loveliness.

vegetable rows

vegetable rows

fall crops just beginning

fall crops just beginning

inspirational

inspirational

rows of squash

rows of squash

This seems so idyllic to me: a family that gets along so well they run a business through two generations and have two homes on the same property.

Ray told us all about the coarse sand that he uses to improve his garden beds:

coarse sand improves the soil

coarse sand improves the soil

old blueberry bush which revived with dairy manure mulch

old blueberry bush which revived with dairy manure mulch

cow fiber mulch

cow fiber mulch

Ray also spoke highly of a product I love: washed dairy manure, sold as “cow fiber” by the yard at The Planter Box.  Because cows have a longer digestive process, their manure comes out with way fewer weed seeds than horse manure.  [Hmm, I googled how many stomachs a cow has and found this: “Technically a cow does not have four stomachs; it has 4 digestive compartments within their stomach. The four digestive compartments in order are:  reticulum (the hardware stomach, where foreign objects collect that cannot pass through the digestive system)
rumen (where bacteria break down cellulose and fibre from plant material)
omasum (absorbs water and digestible nutrients)
abomasum (which would be the true stomach, as in humans)”.  Little did I know; I always had the unscientific image of four stomachs!]

Horses are often treated with de-wormers, which is another reason that some organic gardeners prefer to not use horse manure.  The cow fiber at The Planter Box comes from Tillamook, Oregon, where cows are raised hormone-free.

[from Wikipedia’s entry about Tillamook’s dairies:  “The move that garnered Tillamook the most nationwide attention though, came in 2005, after a slew of consumer inquiries about dairies’ use of a genetically engineered bovine growth hormone designed to boost milk production. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration had said milk products derived from cows injected with the hormone were safe, but consumer worries about potential cancer risks persisted.  Over objections from some member farmers and from biotechnology giant Monsanto, which manufactured the hormone, Tillamook County Creamery Association voted to require all its dairy suppliers to phase out its use. Tillamook was one of the first big national dairy brands to make such a decision.”]

Ray recommended two raspberries, Heritage and Polana.

Ray recommended two raspberries, Heritage and Polana.

the pond, looking east from house gardens

the pond, looking east from house gardens

Across a field from the vegetable garden, to the east, is a large natural pond.  Since retiring first from teaching and then from full time management of the garden center, Ray has been developing the north side of the pond into another vegetable area.  To get there, we walked between the main garden and a flock of happy chickens.

contented free range flock

contented free range flock

As we turned toward the pondside path, Ray drew our attention to his frame for hanging baskets.

Ray's hanging basket frame

Ray’s hanging basket frame

new beds north of pond

new beds north of pond

pondside garden

pondside garden

netted strawberries

netted strawberries

an idyllic setting

an idyllic setting

Ray's plan: to continue the path east with a bridge.

Ray’s plan: to continue the path east with a bridge.

looking west from the pondside path

looking west from the pondside path

Walking back toward the house gardens...

Walking back toward the house gardens…

chicken coop is upper right

chicken coop is to the right

Next Ray led us back along the pondside path, past the chicken coop and the big vegetable gardens, through one of the nursery propagation area, past greenhouses and storage buildings to another vegetable area behind the nursery itself. There, on a bed of old compost from the nursery, he had a bed of assorted lettuces backed with Jerusalem artichokes.

Ray speaks of compost to a rapt audience.

Ray speaks of compost, lettuces, and Jerusalem artichokes to a rapt audience.

He then led us out a long green road to a far flung potato patch in a clearing in the woods.  He told us he deliberately planted it that far out so that every day he would have a reason to take a long, healthful walk to check on the garden.

the long trek to the potato patch

the long trek to the potato patch

potato field

potato field

potato field

talking about spuds

digging up a spud

digging up a spud

As you can imagine, many different kinds of potatoes are grown in this field, and there is plenty of room to expand to fresh soil.  The plants thrive without any supplemental water being carried out there, and deer have no interest in scavenging potatoes.

Potato flowers are as lovely as those of ornamental potato vines.

beautiful potato flower

beautiful potato flower

On the green trek back to the nursery, I thought about how there does not seem to be as much joy and exuberance in the tour goers on an edible tour as what I have experienced on my many tours through ornamental gardens.  The feeling at the earlier gardens on the edible tour had been more serious and thoughtful and not especially lively.  Ray had excelled at sharing his great joy of vegetable gardening and had inspired me to make a greater attempt at incorporating more edibles in my garden.  (It would be easier if I had a whole ‘nother lot, because mine garden is sort of full up with non edible ornamentals now.)

the trek back to the nursery

the trek back to the nursery

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