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Dozens turn out for North Shore garden tour

Cree Bradley shares information about the raised beds used to produce multiple cuttings of lettuce, bok choy, and kale. Photo by Wayne Seidel.

Two thriving fruit and vegetable gardens were on display for the 50 participants in the sixth annual North Shore Mystery Garden Tour Aug. 10. The hosts included Shary Zoff of Shary's Berries and Jason and Cree Bradley of Chelsea Morning Farm.

The evaluations of the tour were excellent and echoed similar themes to this:

"Awesome! Always a treat. ... Well done! Well organized and informative. I love that you brought attention to local, small business. Wonderful hosts."

The Lake County Master Gardeners, in cooperation with University of Minnesota Extension staff, organize the tour and put together an information packet on each place visited.

The tour started at Shary's Berries west of Two Harbors in Clover Valley. Tour-goers had a chance to view expansive plantings of half-high blueberries (a North Blue variety) and an incredible array of raspberry varieties hardy to northern Minnesota. For many, the tour stop included taste-testing the different varieties.

There was a tour of a greenhouse used for starting plants and two high tunnel greenhouses for growing tomatoes, basil, and kale. Both types of structures extend the growing season, limit damage from wildlife, and protect plants from frost.

Central to the theme of efficiency on Shary's farm was the innovative use of garden space with succession planting and companion planting.

Samson, Shary's dog, was right in the middle of the group enjoying the attention. His official job on the farm is predator control and greeting visitors.

The second stop was at Chelsea Morning Farm - a community supported agriculture (CSA) enterprise. Jason and Cree have approximately 75 families that have purchased "shares" and receive garden produce on a weekly basis during times of harvest.

The farm is lush and is best known by the large field viewable from Highway 3 with the unique wooden fence surrounding it. The free-standing fence is constructed of balsam fir harvested from their land and provides effective deer control.

They grow an array of salad greens including lettuce, bok choy, and kale -- grown in raised beds all summer long. Other crops include tomatoes, peppers, corn, carrots, peas, and beans. Tour-goers had the opportunity to view their new high-tunnel greenhouse, unique rear-engine tractor, and elaborate drip irrigation system.

Participants said they enjoyed the opportunity to tour the farms, make new friends, and learn about new research-based information from the University of Minnesota Extension - all while having a fun and entertaining evening out.

Each of the hosts was presented with a Lake Superior rock engraved with the phrase "2011 North Shore Mystery Garden."