Monday, April 23, 2018

GNCE tackles the wild asparagus of Dodge Paddock

By Alan Lau
This week on our Avalonia Adventures, the GNCE sophomores had a workday at Dodge Paddock (2.6 acres) and Beal Preserve (1.08 acres) in Stonington, Connecticut. The beautiful property is right on the coast, filled with a variety of plants and animals. The Beal family donated the portion of land we were working on and had the rights to continue gardening there until Mrs Beal died almost two years ago. Our challenge that day was to dig up Asparagus plants. The roots were well established in the fertile soil, so it was quite a challenge for me to get them out at first. Asparagus are in the Lily family along with the onion, garlic, and tulip. The vegetable goes back to the early 3000 BC when Romans first cultivated it. The crop is grown all around the world and has a variety of species.
As we dug up the roots, the strong winds cooled us down. It was a nice 60 degrees F, and everyone was in high spirits and excited to get the job done. Shovels, gloves, and rakes were passed out. I grabbed a shovel, began to play some Bob Marley, and dug away. At first it was confusing trying to get the roots out. Trying to pull them out by force clearly wasn't the optimal strategy, as the roots were really deep and interconnected throughout the healthy soil. Luckily, my amazing peer Jonathan showed me his awesome shoveling technique. He carefully placed the shovel on the side of the roots and began to kick the shovel into the dirt with both his legs. One could hear the sweet crackle of the roots breaking as the shovel penetrated the soil. Once the roots broke free , they were ready to be pulled out. It was quite surprising how easy it was to get them out of the soil. It was also really nice to find enormous earthworms. They were so large due to the great amount of organic material that was in the soil after all the years of amazing gardening techniques. It was kept up with tender love and care and provided lots of vegetables and flowers.
In past years, Mrs Beal's garden was filled with beautiful flowers and great vegetables.

A little music from Marcus made everyone happy.

Everyone dug in to dig out those Asparagus roots.

Nothing wasted

After a couple of hours working on the roots, we gathered them up where they would be claimed by the North Stonington Garden Club members who would sell them at their annual plant sale. We transported a lot of other organic debris over to an area that was undermined along the old seawall. We filled a lot of holes. We also took some time to explore the preserve and enjoy the new benches that were installed that day by other Avalonia volunteers.
Our GNCE professor Jen went out to get everyone lunch. While waiting for Jen to get back, I began to look at some gulls stationed on a rock about 10 feet away from me. They had yellow beaks that were pointed at me after I began whistling to attract their attention; it worked for a second until the birds went their way. The scenery was absolutely breathtaking. Finally, Jen had come back with lunch. The ravenous students quickly formed a line behind one another to acquire their meal. However, some were distracted by Anne’s dog Riley who made another guest appearance. Our meal was enhanced by Anne’s cookies and juice! In all, it was a good day at Dodge Paddock and Beal Preserve.
The GNCE clean up team.

Lifting the full tarp was a bit of a challenge.

Two special volunteers installed a couple of new benches on the Paddock.

Photographs by Beth Sullivan and GNCE students.

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