Our gardens do far more than contribute fresh flowers, greens, and other produce to the dining rooms; they help campers see how every bit of food they eat derives from soil, sun, and water and requires planting, cultivating, weeding, and harvesting.
We harvest thousands of pounds of produce throughout the summer, but the gardens in turn sow in us creativity, devotion, hard work, and community in quantities hard to measure.
Flowers, Veggies, Herbs & More
At Treetops, we have about five acres on which to grow vegetables and herbs. Throughout the summer, a large percentage of the produce we eat is grown on our own land and sourced from local farms. Each year, we harvest a wide variety of vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, onions, squash , peas, broccoli, greens, and much more for use in our dining rooms as well as for donating to our local food pantry.
Along the border of our pastures, flower gardens are planted with a vibrant array of annuals like lobelia, cosmos, sunflowers, zinnias, alyssum, and amaranth, among many others. Pollinator gardens are planted throughout our campus: within the vegetable rows, atop our many living roofs, in our forest garden, and in our butterfly house.
Two large greenhouses provide indoor growing space. Throughout the spring and early summer, the greenhouses are used for propagation. Thousands of seeds are planted in soil blocks and get their start in the warmth and protection of the greenhouse.
Our greenhouses are home to successions of greens, including lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, and spinach to be later transplanted in the garden. The greenhouses allow more warmth than our unpredictable Adirondack weather can provide for the heat-loving basil, tomatoes, and peppers that will thrive there throughout the summer.
The Children’s Garden
The Children’s Garden is a special plot separate from the production beds. Here campers can play and experiment. They choose what kinds of seeds to plant, watch the results of using different kinds of mulch, and track progress as morning glories wind their way up trellises. They also harvest vegetables, herbs, and berries for cooking activities.
A quiet and beautiful place, the Children’s Garden has become a favorite setting for reading, drawing, painting, and playing music.
The Forest Garden
The goal of the Forest Garden was to design a productive ecosystem that mimicked a stable natural ecosystem. The ground was prepared first by incorporating pigs, who rooted up undesirable plants, broke up the soil and added fertility. Chickens followed whose scratching spread the pig manure around the landscape all while adding their own fertilizer to the soil. The space was then planted out from the existing former pine forest and incorporated fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, herbs, vines and flowers. Each plant was intentionally picked with production, diversity, resilience, and children in mind. With winding paths, little bridges, a lively small pond and so much to nibble on, we hope this is a favorite place for children for generations to come.
A more recent attempt at incorporating productive agricultural ecosystems into our camp landscape came in the form of hugelkultur beds. These beds were built by digging into the earth and burying logs and branches from recent tree clearing efforts as part of our sustainable forest management. The gradual decay of the wood beneath the soil provides plants with a consistent source of long-term nutrients. Soil life proliferates as the decay takes place creating a robust underground ecosystem of fungus, bacteria, worms, and insects. Additionally, as the wood breaks down it acts like a sponge, holding moisture. These beds, like the forest garden, were planted with children in mind. Raspberries, strawberries, plums, apples, grapes, cranberries, herbs, flowers and much more, make these perennial garden beds productive and beautiful, and perfect mini ecosystems to adorn a child’s landscape.