GardenSmart :: EPISODES :: 2003 show25
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Show #25

This week we visit with Linda and Jack Grup, at Highland Lake Inn in Flat Rock, North, Carolina. Highland Lake Inn is located in the mountains on 26 beautiful acres. In 2002 we first visited Highland Lake Inn, looked at their garden and cooked, for our viewers, a scrumptious meal using many items freshly picked from their garden. It was a memorable meal. We visit again this year attempting to learn more about their techniques that make this working garden - that feeds on a daily basis 100-150 people - effective. Many ideas discussed should help you and your garden become more productive. Chris Khare is the head gardener and shares his knowledge with Dr. Rick and our audience.

Although many parts of this region have experienced drought conditions this year, this area has received approximately 300% of the seasonal average of rainfall. The excessive amount of rain has encouraged weeds, bugs and fungus and has made it essential that Chris try new plants and new varieties in addition to their old favorites. Some have worked better than others, Chris views it all as a learning experience. He feels that it is important for all gardeners to realize that during the year rarely does everything progress perfectly. He shares with us today some tips that should help us get through, even excel during adverse weather conditions.

Swiss Chard, Bright Lights, has grown well this season. It is called Bright lights because it has different colored stems - pink, yellow, even deep red. All taste the same, however. When tender, they are served as a baby green, fresh in salads. When larger they bunch it, chop it, simmer and braze it, using it as a brazed green. It's very tasty. The leaves and stems can all be eaten. The stems can be substituted for Asparagus, rolled in butter and bread crumbs and baked. They're fantastic.

This is normally a spring or early summer crop. The rain and weather have helped this crop last all season. To achieve the longevity Chris has mulched with grass clippings to keep the soil cool. If the bugs get bad he sprays early in the morning with Neem Oil or Rotinon. If it doesn't rain in the afternoon, washing off his potion, the bugs are kept at bay and the plants hold up fairly well.

Chris has had good success with Squash this season as well. Many gardeners found Squash to be quite challenging this year because it has been too hot, too dry or to wet. Chris feels his key to success has been multiple plantings. He planted the first of May, the first of June and the first of July. This has resulted in a long season of picking Squash.

Chris and the Chef went through a catalog and picked different Squash seeds, among others, Green Zephyr. The Green Zephyr has done well in its fight against Squash Bugs and Borers. As well, the Colorado Potato Beetle is another natural predator. It chews the leaves, skeletalizing them. The leaves are important in energizing the fruit, thus important to the success of the plant. To combat these pests he uses Neem Oil and a little fish emulsion and sprays in the morning when the bugs are most active. The Neem Oil is applied to eradicate the bugs. Neem Oil supposedly comes from the Neem Tree, it is reasonably organic and acts as a pretty good general insecticide, a nice fungicide and a mitacide. The fish emulsion is intended to provide a boost to the plant and help it overcome the negative effects of the bugs. Fish emulsion is ground up fish waste that is high in Nitrogen, it has some Potassium and Phosphorus. It helps keep the plants green and growing. Chris uses foliar feeding so the plants absorb the mixture through their leaves.

For the restaurant they pick frequently, targeting the baby Squash. Picking the young, tender fruit keeps the plant productive for a longer period of time and the Squash tastes better, the flavor is better. They mix crab meat and cheese and put that into a secret batter, fry it, then stuff the mixture into the squash flowers. Very tasty. The flower holds all the good stuff in.

It is estimated that most gardeners use twice as much water as they actually need. We can create a beautiful garden and use significantly less water. One strategy for saving water is to utilize water zoning. This refers to selecting plants of differing water needs and placing them in different parts of the garden. Water efficient sites are organized around three different zones.

The plants that need the least amount of water, plants that can virtually take care of themselves, once established, go in low water use areas. Plants like Ornamental Grasses, many Cacti, plants native to arid regions would go in this area.

The next area consists of plants requiring moderate amounts of water. 50%-60% of most gardens consist of plants in this category. These are plants that are reasonably drought tolerant. However, during the first several years, when getting established, they need extra care. Japanese Maples, Azaleas, Rhododendrons fall in this category.

High water use zones are typically areas we want to accent. Areas around the front door or near a patio, are areas where one might want seasonal color or visual impact. Annuals that consume a lot of water fall into this category. Impatiens, Begonias, large leafed plants like Squash, even Corn are examples. Be judicious with high water areas because they require more watering and higher maintenance.

This concept is more difficult in established landscapes. It is certainly easier to start fresh and develop these areas. Water can be conserved and bills reduced considerably by utilizing this concept.

Gardeners love both flowers and vegetables. When one can combine both it's a plus. Chris has some Marigolds that are edible. Tagetes Tenuifolia, Tangerine Gem Marigold has a beautiful little flower and it tastes like a Tangerine. The fragrance is overpowering, a wonderful Tangerine scent. They taste like Tangerines and can be scattered on salads, with orange slices. Or utilized on a dessert like Key Lime Pie. It has a fine, serrated foliage and is a low growing plant. It is easy to control, if it grows too tall cut it back to keep it from falling over. Chris cuts it back once or twice in the early part of summer.

As well, Chris has a lemon flavored Marigold that is similar to the Tangerine Gem. It has a scent like a lemon.

Hollyhock is another edible plant, one you may have seen at your grandmothers'. It is a bi-annual that seeds out very well. It takes two seasons to grow. In the fall it might put on leaves which last through the winter, especially a mild winter. The following spring it should produce flowers and eventually seed, then start the process again. This is used more as a show garnish than a taste garnish. The white and purple, accents some dishes very well. The taste is mild, thus could go with about anything.

Snapdragons and Cosmos can be used for their ornamental effect as well as being edible. Since this has been a cooler, wetter summer for Chris these plants have had an extended period to bloom. The Cosmos has seeded itself out several times this year; in other words, it was planted in the spring, it produced seeds, those seeds dropped and more plants have come back. This plant is present in a lot of wild flower mixes thus tolerates a wide range of conditions, such as a high moisture and high heat in the summertime. These are two plants that look good and taste good as well.

Day Lily is a wonderful garden plant and comes in a lot of different colors and it blooms most of the season. Here they pick the whole flower and use it as a garnish, it can be placed on plates or used on a salad bar. The petals can be chopped and sprinkled on a salad. They have a mild taste and a good texture almost like a lettuce leaf. Every color has a slightly different flavor. To Chris the reds, are a little sweeter, than the orange or the lemon colors. The peachy pink to him is the sweetest he's tasted. Salad dressing is a wonderful addition to these flowers, it heightens the flavor. These too can be stuffed, using crab meat and cheese. The buds are edible, they have a spicy taste that disappears when they go to the flower stage. They can be fried. This is a plant that is tough, it stands up to bugs and most everything else and rarely needs sprayed.

This week Georgia visits with Mark Mariani, a landscape developer. We visit with Mark in a magical setting, his own orchard. Mark wanted to create an orchard within his property that the entire family could use. His kids are involved with the orchard from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. He has a variety of fruit trees - Nectarine Trees, Peach Trees and special Apple Trees. These Apple Trees are about 30 years old and there are only about 200 of this variety in the entire world. These are special because they have been grown and espaliered, trained to be a certain height and lower limbs removed. They will never grow any taller than they are presently. One can go underneath them and see the structure, which acts like an natural umbrella.

Mark also has Fig trees. This is unusual because Fig trees normally don't grow in colder regions. Mark puts these trees in a greenhouse during the winter. If one didn't have a greenhouse they could be placed in a cold house or a potting shed during winter.

Mark has two different varieties of Fig Trees. One is a White Fig, the other a Brown Fig. The White Fig blooms earlier, the Brown Fig in August.

This is a special place to visit. Mark views it as a secondary classroom for his children. We thank Mark for showing us his beautiful orchard.

The Fig Tree produces large quantities of fruit, from mid to late summer. Chris and the chef use these Figs in the restaurant, in desserts or cut in half and placed on plates as a garnish, even as a glaze for some of the meat dishes. The leaves can also be used, roll them up and bake them.

The Fig Tree not only produces fruit but it is a handsome ornamental as well. The backs of the leaves appear very silvery with uplighting at night. Chris, to show off the tree, likes to espalier it, trim it at the bottom, let the branches show, it becomes an eye catcher, a specimen. This tree is against a wall, with a walkway in front. Most of the branches are hanging over the sidewalk, rendering the sidewalk impassible. To trim, cut the branches back and get a flat profile of the tree. Essentially today we're removing horizontal branches or branches that move out into the sidewalk, branches that give it a three dimensional effect. The branches against the wall are left. By trimming like this, it forces the tree to grow upright. It will grow out but more growth will be upright.

Fig Trees, once mature, can grow to 15-20 feet tall. Once this tall birds and squirrels tend to take all the fruit. Chris utilizes a chain saw in this situation. Cut the tree back to about knee high in February or March. If in a warmer climate, wait until late March. One doesn't want an early spurt of growth zapped if a late freeze were to occur. If cut to about knee high at the beginning of the season this tree could grow to 6 feet tall or more within one year and be covered with fruit. With an extensive, healthy root system it won't be bothered, the trim actually rejuvenates the tree and encourages new growth and fruit.

For many, Tomatoes are a must for a vegetable garden. Chris has planted 13 different varieties and 300 Tomato plants. Again, Chris was looking for plants that would thrive in adverse conditions. The Sungold Tomato has done much better than the other varieties, it has held up very well in the wet, cool climate. It looked so bad at the beginning of the season they were sure it would fail, in fact only 5 plants survived. But they are the best tasting, most delicious Tomatoes. This is a good point. Depending on the conditions, hot or cold, wet or dry, some varieties do well, others don't. What may thrive this year may falter next year if conditions are dramatically different. Disease resistance is important for Tomatoes. If one can find a variety with about half the alphabet behind the variety name, the VFF, the NST type of Tomatoes, often one is better off than with an heirloom Tomato. Chris' experience leads him to believe that heirloom tomatoes aren't as productive as some of the newer varieties. Some years they do well, particularly if there is a long season, but they don't seem to tolerate fungus the way newer varieties do.

The Sungold Tomato is a particularly sweet Cherry Tomato. Chris has harvested gallons of this sweet Tomato from one vine this year.

Carrots often present challenges. When Chris experienced Tomato crop loss, he pulled back the black plastic underneath. At that point there was a weed free bed underneath. Immediately Chris planted Carrots. There are a few weeds in the beds now but it is almost impossible not to have some weeds. After weeding there is a carrot snack waiting.

Although it has been wet this year, there is a drip irrigation system present. It is a micro drip system and a form of crop insurance. This system puts out about a quarter of a gallon per minute per hundred feet. It's a very efficient, very low flow way to get water to the plants roots. This system eliminates the worry about over spray. A conventional sprinkler would use about 7 gallons per minute or approximately 400 gallons of water per hour. Thus in a drought situation the drip or micro irrigation system is very effective and will keep the water bill down. Water oozes out of the hose slowly, which helps reduce weeds because there isn't as much available moisture for the weeds, plus the water gets to the needed area.

The Carrots are doing very well. This area has heavy soil with clay mixed in. Chris has added a lot of organic matter and sand. As well he has selected shorter growing varieties because the soil is heavy. The shorter growing carrots grow faster and don't get down into the subsoil.

Lettuce is rarely grown in the summer but often planted in the fall or early spring. This lettuce is doing well and Chris once again is growing a lot of different types. Certain types are thriving in the wetter conditions. Chris has used compost, lettuce loves it and grass clippings have been used as mulch. They keep the soil moist and cooler and keep the weeds down, allowing the lettuce to grow better. He has used a wildfire mix of seeds. This variety adds a lot of color to the salads in the restaurant.

Dr. Rick thanks Chris for showing us his working garden. This is a busy time of year for him but we should all benefit from his gardening tips, especially since he has faced some real challenges this year. Chris says "remember, you can never stop learning in the garden."

Highland Lake Inn

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Photos and story by Monrovia Nursery Company

Lavender is the on-trend plant for gardeners this year. Click here for an article that details a top-tier selection of lavender that ensures success.

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