- [Narrator] Art, nature, there's so much to enjoy on the newly-renovated family sculpture trail at Cheekwood Estate and Gardens. Tammy Algood shares the one thing she added to her tomato patch that she wouldn't go without. Jeff Poppen lends advice on barrel composting and Julie Berbiglia visits the research farm of Tennessee State University to see what's new in organic sweet potato production. Join us. There's 10 very unique sculptures along this 1.5 mile woodland path, featuring all native plants. - We're here at Cheekwood in the Ann and Monroe Carrel Jr. family sculpture trail. It has been newly renovated. It has lots of amazing new paths. There's been thousands of new native plant material added into it from trees and shrubs to herbaceous perennials. And I'm here with Peter Grimaldi from Cheekwood. So I would say one of the biggest things that stands out to me is this path that we're on. - This is the beginning of the boardwalk. And one of the primary goals of the renovation of the sculpture trail was to increase accessibility to and through the trail. I like to say that if design may be considered a solution to the problem or to a problem, the first problem with the sculpture trails, people couldn't find it. And then when they did find it they had a trouble finding their way along the trail. So we plugged it in directly to the back of the color garden experience at the end of the arches and literally paved the trail through the woods to share it with as many of our visitors as possible, those that are differently abled or just mom pushing a stroller. So two loops, Hickory Loop, Cedar Loop. The Hickory Loop is fully accessible by outdoor accessibility guidelines and paved and lit for nighttime experience, which is really very special. - Wow. That's totally new. That adds a different aspect to it that it's lit to night view. And I like these little pods, kind of a gathering pod. - Yeah. These are really nice. - Elevated seating platform maybe. - Yeah, yeah. - I don't know. There are benches along the trail for folks to sit down and take a break but we did also want to suggest at least that hey maybe you should kind of take a longer break. You know, I kind of in the design process envisioned folks even laying down on the surface and forest bathing is a thing now apparently. You and I have been doing it our whole lives but it's new and you can do that on the sculpture trail too. - That sounds fantastic. - Yeah. - And I have to mention the piece behind us is, I feel like a Nashville favorite of the sculpture trail. Tell me a little bit about her. - "Giant Lady Hare Crawling" is a piece by Sophie Ryder and my understanding, I'm the garden guy I'm not the art guy, that as it is an anthropomorphic-sized hare, also a woman's feature sort of celebrating the female form. - Which is cool. - Yeah. But then also, very much it was commissioned for the space in the woodland. So she's meant to appear as if she's crawling or moving through the forest, which along with the other pieces was the original intent of Monroe Carrel Jr. And the curator at the time was not to put art on the trail but to put art in the woodland and use the trail to allow people to find it as it nuanced into the forest. So it's not formulaic in the sense that here is a sculpture and you should sit here and you should look at it from this angle. You're meant to kind of happen upon the artwork as it's woven into the fabric of the forest, enjoy it from different angles, enjoy it alongside all of the native plants. And it's really a very unique experience and a very unique display of outdoor contemporary sculpture. - Yeah. And you do feel in a good way, you feel kind of isolated away from the city and all the hustle and bustle of the town, it's very peaceful. We can hear the ponds in the background and all the birds. And it's really nice in here. - Absolutely Philip and Cheekwood, as you know is bordered by the Warner Park System which per the original designers' early vision, makes it feel like Cheekwood is part of a much larger plot of land and even the forest. So yes, to your point, you're transported away from suburban Nashville and you're literally in the middle of thousands of acres of forest. - So I see a lot of newly planted things in here from herbaceous perennials and ferns to all different kinds of trees. How many new trees have been planted in here? - So there are over 700 new trees and shrubs. - Wow. - Over 700 woody plants, over 80 new dogwoods. - Wow. - So Cheekwood has the nationally accredited Cornus collection certified by the Plant Collections Network. And so I like to think you can look at the entire property, these new projects in a couple of different ways. This one was obviously needed to support and perpetuate the display of the sculpture on the sculpture trail. But it also presented a very unique collecting opportunity. So Cheekwood, just like the museum, collects plants and we have a native plant collection. And so in contrast to some of the other projects, the Japanese garden for example is obviously going to feature some Asian exotic plant material. Sculpture trail is 100% native and with just a few exceptions, no cultivars. - Oh, wow. Yeah. - So it was meant to create as much diversity as possible within our native plant collection and then also add to the already very well-established dogwood collection. - And there was even some flowering dogwood shrubs that I saw back over there. - Yep. This is one of the red-stemmed dogwoods, just over our shoulder that's flowering now . Cornus Florida, just the straight species which took me a while to get through to the designer and the landscape contractor. - I'm sure. - They said, well, some of these cultivars have improved disease resistance. And I said, no, I want 40 or 50 of just the hairiest, weirdest, gnarliest straight species Cornus Florida you can find. - Sure - So that's diversity within the species even. - Right. - So that was exciting. There are at least three other dogwood species on the sculpture trail, including Cornus Flaminia which likes to be along with the amomum down by the stream and Cornus germundii which is more of a multi-stemmed shrubby medium-sized tree. - Yeah. So lots and lots of new and interesting things to see here on the sculpture trail. It's a really neat space. Lots of new accessibility here too. That's great. - Absolutely. We think it's a major add to the value of the experience of coming out to Cheekwood. - Yeah. And the day night viewing is a really amazing aspect also. - All of the lights are in the trees so it has a moonlit feeling, it's very special. And I don't use that word very often. - Yeah. Well, if you get a chance to come out and take a look. - For 20 years I've been growing tomato plants on red plastic, this is what I use. It's commonly available at any garden supply place which you mainly want to look for and I buy it by the roll, but you want to make sure that it's nice and thin, This red plastic. They make it in different thicknesses so get the thinnest one that you can find. And let me tell you why we use this. One of the things that's really important about plastic is that it holds moisture into the soil. It also heats up the soil. So I can plant my plants earlier than normal because I've heated up the soil underneath. Another thing that it does, it deters weeds and insects. And then the best part about this is that it will hold moisture in the heat of the summer, but you'll see that this reflects light up onto the plant. And the reason we want this to happen is the red tricks the plant into thinking that it needs to grow faster. So it'll grow fast and strong, and research shows that you'll get about a 20% bigger yield on your crop by using red plastic on it. You can also use red plastic mulch if you want to but I've just found that the roll of red plastic works the best. And it's the easiest to use. Now let's talk about our cages. Cages are very important because you've got a lot of plant and fruit that you're going to need to give some support to. What I like to use is concrete wire. This is really inexpensive. It's less than $10. You can find it just about anywhere. And what I like to do is buy in six feet lengths. And what I do is cut it so that I can make this round circle. So I cut it to six feet and what I do at the bottom is I just cut all of these prongs so that I've got a wire I can stick down into the ground. One of the things this will do is it supports your tomato plants all year long through the whole growing season. It's also easy for you to get to and harvest the product out of. So it's just the perfect thing. I've been using these particular cages for about 15 years. So for that $10, you really get your money's worth as far as the cage goes and as far as support for your plants. My tomato bed is 3' by 25'. And I have eight plants in it. The determinant varieties that I have are Celebrity Mountain Pride and Mountain Fresh, which are wonderful tomato plants that are resistant to disease. That's the reason I picked them. The indeterminate variety that I've got which means that it can grow and grow and grow not really to a specific length is my Sweet 100s that are the cherry tomatoes. So that's what I've got on the end here. Now, very important to label your tomatoes. You think that you'll remember them through the season, but you don't. So if you have really good success, you want to make sure you know the variety of that. And I just use a regular plant marker with a Sharpie. And that will last through the whole season. The variety that I plant every year that is my favorite is Mountain Pride. The reason I like it so much, it's perfect for sauce. It's perfect for ketchup. And at the end of the season it's perfect for green tomato relish. So I'll start harvesting these probably in July and that will go until frost. So it's got a nice long harvest of great tomato to use in the kitchen. And it's delicious on a sandwich. - Gardeners know how little we know. We get the soil in good condition. We sow our seeds and set out our plants. And then we just stand back and watch in awe as the miracles happen. What in the world is going on beneath our feet that creates all of this magical growth? Today we're going to explore the invisible helpers, the microbes responsible for life. Microbes are the ones that grow our crops and we can grow them. We are not who we think we are. 90% of the DNA in our bodies does not belong to us, but are separate beings called microbes. They help keep us alive and healthy because we're their hosts. All of these microbes inhabit the soil but they're invisible. We don't see them. And we oftentimes don't think about them. Biologists have named over 100,000 different species of bacteria and 25,000 different species of fungi. And they're still counting. Each species plays a very specific role in nature. With this great diversity, all we can say is the more the merrier. As a gardener, I love compost. Compost is where the microbes multiply and these microbes are so helpful for the garden but sometimes the gardeners don't have enough compost for what they need and so we make compost tea. When we stir compost in water and aerate it, the microbes multiply, but we have to put this on the ground right away. We have a special recipe for a great compost for compost tea that we call barrel compost. First, we gather five bucketfuls of fresh cow manure. Cow manure is very special. Grass has been in the cow's digestive system with the four stomachs for 18 days before it comes out full of flora and fauna, lots of different species of very beneficial soil-building microbes. Because calcium is all important in helping to move other nutrients around in the soil, we'll have to add some calcium to our manure because manure comes from the cow, but the cow withholds the calcium and uses it for making bones and milk. So we'll add about a half a pound of ground-up egg shells to our manure pile. In old-time biodynamic farming we generally try to get all of our materials from off of the farm, but rock dusts are an exception. This basalt come from Massachusetts where they have mountains of it. It's an infant clay that has lots of trace elements in it. And it has minerals that we don't have here in Tennessee. So we'll add about two pounds of basalt. Now we have to set to work and stir it up real good. So we just go through this whole pile, mixing it up, chopping it up and sort of moving it from over there to over here. Barrel compost stems from research done in the '50s when people were very concerned about radiation. Experiments were done trying to find out what kind of elements helped dissipate the negative effects of strontium 90 and cesium 137 and calcium-rich soils resisted those effects more than granite soils. So it became apparent that it would be a good idea to have calcium in a certain live forms in our soils and eggshells being a live calcium because they've been through a life process, were chosen. And so was the basalt rock. Barrel compost was used on farms since then, but it wasn't until the unfortunate accident at Chernobyl in 1986 that a lot of radiation was released over central Europe. When scientists were flying over taking pictures of the contaminated land, they noticed a few spots where there wasn't any radiation. When they drove up to those places, they found that they were farms that had been using barrel compost. Barrel compost is called barrel compost because originally it was made in old whiskey barrel. We would put the barrel half buried into the ground, take out the top and the bottom. Well, my whiskey barrel went the way of all wooden products with the help of microbes again. And so when I rebuilt it, I used brick. This is nine bricks around and nine bricks deep. For 30 years I've been making special humus-rich compost preparations according to the indications of Rudolph Steiner. This is manure, which has been buried in a cow horn over the winter time. This preparation is made from yarrow flowers. These were sewn up into the bladder of a stag and this preparation works with potassium and sulfur. After we sew it up into the stag bladder we hang it in the sun for six months in the summer and then bury it for six months in the earth. And this really helps the compost to have lots of microbes that help fix potassium, help the potassium as well become mobile so that our plants can get it when they need it. This preparation is made from chamomile flowers sewn up into the intestines of a cow. This works with calcium and sulfur and helps to enliven and stabilize the nitrogen in our compost. This preparation is simply stinging nettle. This is a plant you don't really want to brush against. It will sting you, but it is very nutrient rich. You can eat stinging nettle leaves in the spring. They're a good tonic for helping get the blood going after a cold winter. And this one is just simply buried in the soil surrounded by peat moss. To help the plants resist diseases, we take white oak bark from the majestic white oak tree and we grind it up and then we stuff it into the skull cavity of a freshly-killed cow. And this one is buried into a very wet moist spot. All of these preparations stay buried for a year. This preparation is made from the beautiful little yellow dandelion flowers. You can almost still see the little dandelions in there. And this preparation works with silica and potassium and helps the plants to become sensitive and draw into them what they need. And then the last one is the juice of valerian. We simply take the valerian flowers, press out the juice and ferment it. And this works with phosphorus. Here's what it turns into after a year in the pit. This is barrel compost, teeming with invisible life and visible life too. In a teaspoon of soil we can have a million bacterias, but we can also have a billion. And of course that's what gardeners want because the microbes are so vitally important. So we'll take a handful of this that has all those microbes in it and we'll put it in to a bucket of water. Now we'll set about, and we'll stir it up because water and air are what microbes need to propagate. And we can actually propagate four to 500 times in number of these bacterias and fungi inside this bucket of water. So that there's way, way more that we can put on our fields. After 20 minutes of stirring, I'm done and I take a whisk room and dip it in. I can sprinkle this barrel compost mixture up on an acre of garden. I like to do it in the evening as the dew is falling and the dew will keep everything nice and moist and help distribute it through the plants and through the garden soil. We still have to add compost and minerals, grow our cover crops and be gentle and thorough with our tillage. Then with the help of the herbs and manure and basalt and eggshells in our barrel compost, we can stand back in awe and wonder and watch as the mysteries of nature unfold. - Well, we're at the Tennessee State University research farm where we're looking at their sweet potato trials. And in fact, in this case, it's organic sweet potato trials. So Dr. Dandwani, why is sweet potato production important enough to study it? - We looked at the census of agriculture data from '70s. The sweet potato production was very high and there was lots of farms over four and 500 farms. They were doing sweet potato. And over the years to 2010 the number of farms have gone down. And of course the production has gone down. It could be for a variety of reasons. So the Tennessee State University and extension department through our organic agriculture research is promoting this crop and doing the research trial. - Well, these beds look fantastic but I know there's something different about each one. So what are some of the aspects of the sweet potato production that you're looking at here? - Weed is a main constraint, is a major constraint because we don't use chemicals. We are testing different mulches, like plastic mulch which is approved in organic agriculture. We also using wheat straw. We are using pine needles and with the control, control means there are no mulch on that. So we are comparing the effect of these different mulches with the control and see how they are able to minimize the weeds, how they are able to suppress the weeds in different beds. - And I know a lot of people like to use the plastic mulches. It's available on the market and it is organic as you mentioned, easy to use. What do you think might be some of the benefits of it? - Under the plastic mulch, and especially because of its color, the black color, it absorbs more heat and it maintains the soil moisture. What that means is the water needs would be less. We do have a red mulch and we have a mulch which reflects the light. That is good for minimize insect based and disease problem, especially the white flies. The metallic mulch we are going to try next year, that helps in repellent of the insect base. So these are some of the benefits of this, especially the plastic mulches. We want to know the acceptability from the consumers. Once we produce these varieties, it is very important that how public or the consumer they liked it. They are texture, on their taste, on their aroma, flavor. We conducted a taste testing. We invited all faculty, students and other staff. And we had a small, simple form to fill out. They tried all these varieties and they gave very positive and very good feedback, which was very important for us in terms of data collection. - So I guess we're about halfway through the growing season for the sweet potatoes. - Yes, we are. We have different planting times. We started growing them in May. Our first harvest, our first planting was done in May. And then we had some others we planted up to last month all the way down there. Yes. But so this ones will be ready in about a month. It's almost due for harvest. This is the marketable size. If we leave it too long in the ground, it'll grow more than it's supposed to and become a jumbo size and those are marketable but most people prefer the ones that are medium. - Do you have to plant these where you cut up the potatoes like you do with other potatoes into the eyes, or do you just plant the whole sweet potato. We just plant the whole sweet potato in the ground and then it will start forming roots. Or we can take a vine maybe as much as six inches without roots and sow it in the ground. And then it'll grow the roots from under. We have them in purple and in whites, in orange, yellow, yes, different varieties. We have about 10 plants for each variety and then one foot spacing in between the plants. And then we have two feet spacing in between the varieties. - So this year you're looking at weeds. Next year you're going to be looking at what might work well for pest control. And are there other ideas in the future what else to look at? - Well, as far now of the variety trial is on the top because we started last year and all these farmers, they need new varieties that, which variety performs well in their local soil and climate conditions. And because we are in organic agriculture, weed management is a major challenge so we are focusing on that to address the weed problem. We are also looking at, as I mentioned earlier that nutritional contents of these varieties. - Oh, well, this is really great research. And thank you so much for doing it because I know certainly as a consumer, at some point I will absolutely benefit from better tasting sweet potatoes. As a home gardener, well at some point, these trials are going to benefit me. And of course, all of the agriculture in Tennessee is benefiting.
May 13, 2021
Season 29 | Episode 16
On this episode of Nashville Public Television's Volunteer Gardener, join Phillipe Chadwick for a tour of the family sculpture trail at Cheekwood Estate and Gardens. Jeff Poppen explains the science involved in barrel composting. He shares his own experiences and lends advice as to what to include and what to leave out. Tammy Algood also follows the science to produce a greater tomato yield.