• Local
  • Pittsfield, MA
  • more weather >
Judy Isacoff
Food for two-leggeds and native six-leggeds; all four-leggeds discouraged, June 11, 2019.

NATURE’S TURN: Polyculture, no-till garden tour

By Monday, Jun 17, 2019 Farm and Table

June 17-30, 2019

Mount Washington — Warm summer days, faraway sunsets and cool, moonlit nights find us in our gardens. Over and around the garden, innocent blue heaven and blissful calm follow roaring winds in shaken trees and dark grey clouds dripping rain. We drink the wonderful color green.

The first day of summer, the Summer Solstice, arrives June 21. We have enjoyed the incremental increase in sunlight for three months. Seeds of frost-hardy beet, parsnip, peas and lettuce sown in April have grown through their gangly baby stages. Onion seedlings, planted at the same time, looked as if in shock until, seemingly suddenly, they, too, are fully established, handsome plants growing quickly. Rows of vigorous fall-planted garlic have anchored the garden with their lush foliage, superseded only by perennial rhubarb that thrived even when its leaves were snow-covered on May 12.

Touring my garden, pictured above, see purple-flowering comfrey, symphytum officinale, in the foreground. Comfrey, a traditional herb with many uses, invites pollinators. Behind it, left, a swath of fall- and spring-planted garlic meets self-sown, brilliant red amaranth. This nursery of seedlings appeared at the site of a huge red amaranth plant that grew there last summer. I thin this “weed” patch and add the microgreens to lettuce salads.

The flat-edged transplanting spade stands beside a freshly planted shrub, yacon, which produces edible tubers often compared to jicama. A tender perennial, I overwinter plants indoors. At the back of the bed, the spading fork stands in front of a zucchini planting; the bare ground is seeded to basil that will be transplanted elsewhere or harvested when the zucchini fills the space. Yacon grew in this bed last summer: Squash fit into my crop rotation. To the left, notice trellised peas and thick mulch where the ground is not planted, interplanted or occulted.


Camass stems and seed tops cut and arranged by Kerry Wilson, June 12, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Beyond the zucchini, in the center of the photograph, bluestar, Amsonia hubrichtii, commands its place as butterfly and bee feeder. Bluestar is a small, spring-flowering shrub native to the Midwest. Its flowering time is coming to an end. Most of the camass pictured two weeks ago has finished blooming. I find the flower stems useful as temporary markers.

Elsewhere in the garden, Adirondack Red, German Butterball and Magic Molly potato plants are growing up above the rims of their planting wells. I am hilling earth around bare stems below their leafy tops. The flesh of these potato varieties – red, gold and deep blue, respectively – is nutritionally charged. All of them have good to excellent storage potential. They, and we, have a whole lot of growing ahead before calling upon that quality!

Potato bed, June 12, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff


Comfrey – https://duckduckgo.com/?q=comfrey&t=seamonkey&ia=web and https://www.motherearthnews.com/organic-gardening/comfrey-leaves-zmaz74zhol#axzz31GYzOXYE and https://joybileefarm.com/comfrey-plant-uses/
Red amaranth

More by »