Sharing the fruits of their labor

Juneau tours gardens to see how it's done

Posted: Monday, July 18, 2005

When Ken and Leigh Camp moved to their Sunset Street home near Lemon Creek in 1994, the front lawn was scrubby and the backyard was muskeg.

Today their home has a welcoming, shady entryway with the detailed forms of leaves etched into the concrete walkway. Beds of plants hug the fences that surround manicured lawns. Red and white honeysuckle climbs a trellis, and fish swim in a lily pond in a tranquil back yard that invites birds.

Dozens of gardeners marveled at the Camps' gardens Saturday, part of the Southeast Master Gardeners tour.

Visitors paid $10, which goes toward a scholarship, to visit up to 12 homes in Lemon Creek, the Twin Lakes area and North Douglas over the weekend.

Judy Knight guided the tours at the Camps' gardens, pointing to one plant after another.

"The stocks that look like they're dead - that's garlic," Knight told a group. "And of course, she has zucchini."

Knight pointed to a two-story plum tree.

"And yes, they get ripe, and yes, they eat them," she said.

Leigh Camp said it took five years just to uproot what was there when they bought the house. Then the Camps brought in tons of fill for the yards and plants. The 2,200-gallon pond, stocked with koi and goldfish, was installed in the summer of 1999.

"I've been gradually adding flower beds as time and money allows," Leigh Camp said. "I like being outside but I don't sit still very well. This gives me something to do which is outside and busy."

If Camp has a tip, it's to keep trying different plants because plants do well in some areas and not others.

Ken Mitchell, just down the street from the Camps, showed his vegetable and berry garden, the largest in Lemon Creek. He grows eight to 10 species of vegetables, some in multiple varieties.

He uses raised beds, bordered by planks of untreated wood. Rain makes soil colder. The raised beds allow rain water to drain, leaving the soil 5 to 10 degrees warmer than otherwise.

"That will give you the condition you need for the plants to be able to use the nutrients and fertilizers in the soil, and do well," Mitchell said.

He adds to the soil's warmth by covering the plants, as well.

A tip: Don't use treated wood. "It's got all kinds of nasty things in it," said Mitchell, a retired forester.

A visitor asked Mitchell to settle a bet. How did he plant his carrots in such an orderly pattern?

"It's top secret. If I tell you, I have to kill you," Mitchell said, but then he spilled and let them live, anyway.

He went to a shed and brought out a plank that had dozens of nails driven into it. He presses the plank, nail heads down, into the soil to create the depressions the seeds go in.

"You end up with this carrot patch that looks like rows of soldiers," he said.

• Eric Fry can be reached at eric.fry@juneauempire.com.



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