Four Square Garden at Washington County Rural Heritage Museum attracts more than bugs

July 09, 2011|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI |

Karen Greeley had the know-how to get rid of those pesky bugs the old-fashioned way.

She just didn't have the children.

When early settlers found pests in the garden, Greeley said, they would send in their children to remove them by hand.

Greeley is a member of Washington County Master Gardeners, the group that maintains the traditional German Four Square Garden at the Washington County Rural Heritage Museum. In keeping with the museum's commitment to authentic rural and agricultural traditions, the Master Gardeners use no pesticides or herbicides in the garden.

So when Greeley found squash bugs among the squash plants — or cucurbits, as she calls them — without missing a beat, she grabbed hold of a leaf and started picking.

"Children would come out and pick off the bugs," she said. "If they found eggs, they'd pull them off, too."

Such were the notes of interests that about 25 visitors learned Saturday at the gardening and outdoor wood-fired bread-baking event on the grounds of the museum.

The Master Gardeners focused on "The Hot, Lazy Days of Summer." Using the German Four Square Garden typical of early Washington County settlers as a template, Greeley and the other gardeners tackled issues such as heat and lack of rain, determining when plants have reached their lifespans and inspecting for insect damage.

"We like to teach visitors some history, along with some tips on caring for their gardens," Greeley said.

Highlights of the garden, which features plants grown from open-pollinated, heirloom seeds, include unusual vegetables that Greeley fondly referred to as "oddballs." One was the rattail radish, a green bean-like variety that grows in a seed pod atop a wild-looking plant.

Near the garden, Bill Theriault of Hagerstown demonstrated the process of baking wood-fired bread at an outdoor reproduction oven. Theriault spent six hours fire-heating the oven while he kneaded enough dough for 40 loaves of bread and let it rise. The eventual baking took only about 50 minutes for each of two batches of 20.

"Colonials judged the temperature of the oven by sticking their arm in to see how long they could hold it there," he said.

Other methods of determining oven temperature, which was not to exceed 500 degrees, were throwing water on the hearth to see how quickly it would evaporate, and throwing cornmeal on the oven.

"If it burns, then it's too hot," Theriault said.

Fred and Karen Nugent of Hagerstown attended the event. The couple said they learned of some plants they found to be interesting, such as heirloom carrots and dill, plants that can be used to make colored dyes, and the "ugly" radishes. The Nugents were impressed with the knowledge and the friendliness of the Master Gardeners and Theriault, they said.

"I gotta tell you, these guys know a lot of stuff," Fred Nugent said. "And the bread. That is 'real' bread.'"

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