Tending the Seeds of Halter Ranch

Our seeds have germinated and the garden has begun to flourish! This spring I worked diligently to sow seeds, get transplants in the ground, and get the field ready for the season ahead. We are 6 months into our Chef’s Garden project and I am excited to share that not only is the garden officially Organic Certified, but the vegetables from the garden are officially on the Tasting Room menu! If you read my last blog you know that we talked a lot about sowing seeds both physically and metaphorically. Now I would like to discuss tending to the ‘seeds’ we have planted here at Halter Ranch. Some seeds take very little work to germinate or require no work at all after they have popped up out of the ground. We can probably all think of a particular plant in our own gardens in which that is the case. In the Chef’s Garden, tomatillos pop up like weeds and don’t even need water to survive, but unfortunately, that is not the case for all the plants in this garden. I tend to each plant in the ground throughout its entire life cycle. And just like the plants in this garden, the mission for the Halter Ranch’s culinary program needs tending to help it grow, flourish, and succeed.

The first and most important form of care I provide for the plants is proper watering, not too much and not too little! Water is necessary for photosynthesis to occur, and it also helps plants absorb nutrients from the soil. I am careful not to water too much because of the risk of root rot, which kills your plant. I have also observed when I water too much, a plant will often be stunted or start to yellow on the leaves. There is also the risk of not watering enough, and for anyone who has ever been in Paso Robles in the summertime can understand how not watering enough could pose a serious threat to the vitality of your garden. It is important to read the signs that your plant may not be getting enough water, like; wilting, yellowing, dying leaf tips, and slow, stunted growth. To make this balance of watering a little more confusing, some vegetables prefer not to have as much water once they start to produce fruit. Cutting the water back on tomatoes and melons once they begin to produce fruit can make the flavor of the end product sweeter and more robust.

Tending to the fertility of our soil is crucial for all plants. I always put an inch thick layer of compost down when I and going to plant in a new bed. I add Cal Poly Compost to help me improve the soil structure, add organic material to the soil, and increase the population of beneficial micro and macro-organisms. Your plants need different nutrients during the growing season to achieve their full potential. I use all-natural fertilizers approved for organic farming to help replenish nutrients back into the soil. These inputs are made of naturally occurring plants, animals, and minerals. Using things like compost tea will help inoculate your soil with good organisms that help break down plant matter and minerals into useful nutrients for the plants. I prioritize taking care of the soil because I cannot grow healthy plants without healthy soil.

Tending to this space with care and attention is a huge task but is incredibly rewarding. Every week there is something new to plant, weed, prune, water, and watch grow in the garden.

Weeding is an integral part of tending to any garden. I prioritize weeding every week in my garden as weeds can attract pests, compete with your crops for water and nutrients, and block out the sun, thus disrupting the growth of your plant. Clearing the beds of weeds can help to mitigate the amount of pests damage on your crops. Pests tend to use weeds as a shelter to hide, lay eggs, and feast on. My favorite tools to help tackle weeds are the Johnny’s Stirrup Hoe and the Elliot Coleman Colinear Hoe. I use these tools almost daily.

The Chef’s Garden must be watered, fertilized, and weeded on a daily/weekly basis. Tending to this space with care and attention is a huge task but is incredibly rewarding. Every week there is something new to plant, weed, prune, water, and watch grow in the garden. It is a constant revolving door of different tasks that keep me very busy. Like any good garden, the Culinary Program must be watered, fertilized, and weeded so it can too can grow and be bountiful.

Date Published: August 19, 2021

Category: Blog

 Haley Trengove

Haley Trengove

Haley Trengove, Estate Culinary Farmer