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Town Creek Garden

Southern Union County Georgia (2012)

The small garden was located on a natural terrace over-looking a large Muskogean town site known to archaeologists as 9UN1 in southern Union County, GA. Nearby, Town Creek flows into the Nottely River. The town site was found by archaeologist Robert Wauchope to contain Swift Creek, Napier, Woodstock, Etowah I-III and Lamar Culture components. Town Creek Mound was contemporary with the Track Rock Terrace Complex (9UN367) located approximately three miles to the north.

The soil of the Town Creek garden was in an ancient volcanic zone that contains relatively high level of gold. Commercial gold mining continued in Union County until the 1950s, when gold sold for $3-5 an ounce. It probably would be feasible today, since at the time of this article, its value is $1615 an ounce. Sub-surface rock strata consist of quartzite, pure white quartz, highly metamorphicized rocks, steatite (soapstone) and partially decomposed igneous rocks. The subsoil consists of decomposed volcanic rocks. Soils near steatite are noticeably more fertile, because they contain high levels of magnesium.

Precipitation at this location averages at least 67 inches a year. Light snowfall is common during the winter. Some heavy snowfalls occur. Ten inches of snow fell on Towns Creek on Christmas Morning of 2010. The last freezing temperatures of spring generally occur around May 8. The first freezing temperatures of fall generally occur around September 8. However, temperatures rarely fall significantly below freezing until early November or even early December.

The area intentionally chosen for the garden was formerly a hard packed deposit of red clay that had been covered with commercial, marble paving gravel. It had been the patio of a former egg hatchery and chicken house, where the author now lived. The soil was so barren that few weeds and no grass would grow on it. Early morning sun was blocked by the former egg hatchery. Late afternoon sun was blocked by mature trees.

Most of the plants were in the ground by May 21, 2011 The former planter made a handy place to cook supper. The chicken hatchery didn’t have a working oven. It was a time of celebration as the plants were already growing. By June 21 the broccoli and squash plants were already producing food for the table.

(Test of compacted sub-soil, crushed shells, wood ash, bone ash and urine)

Site preparation – In November of 2010, I removed the gravel paving and dead weeds from the garden site. I then dug up and turned over all of the dense clay in the garden area. The adjacent egg hatchery’s only source of heat was wood stove. I began putting egg shells and bones from the kitchen into the wood stove. All ash from the stove was then spread on the garden throughout the winter and spring. It was an extremely cold, snowy winter so there was a large volume of ashes on the garden area by spring. I also crushed about twenty pounds of freshwater mussel shells from Lake Nottely and spread them on the garden area.

Simultaneously, I began hauling top soil from an adjacent forest and piling it over the sterile clay patio base. By May 21 there was a 4-6 inch bed of top soil over the clay sub-soil.
All work in the garden was done with a spade, mattock and hoe. No mechanical tiller was utilized before or during the growth of the garden.

Planting – All pre-potted plants came from a local nursery in Union County, GA that supplies Ace Hardware in Blairsville, GA. The pots were fungus and insect free. All plants were extremely healthy, fast-growing and productive.

On May 21 I began planting members of the cabbage family that included broccoli, and collards. At this time I also planted 12 spinach plants. The following week I planted six potato eyes, two yellow summer squash plants and six tomato plants. I planted two big boy, two romano and two cherry tomato plants. Over Labor Day weekend, I planted six mounds of cantaloupe seeds.

Fertilizer, water and insecticides – The only fertilizer used on the garden was human urine diluted to a rate of three parts water to one part urine. No insect pests appeared in the garden. No insecticides were necessary. Rabbits periodically ate some lower collards leaves. A young deer ate the leaves on one broccoli plant, but it recovered. During the mid-summer the garden was occasionally irrigated with a hose, but this was seldom necessary, because of regular rainfall.

Initial growth rates – Members of the cabbage family grew at a phenomenal rate throughout late May and June then slowed as the night time temperatures increased. The spinach plants grew very little before flowering and going to seed. Tomato and squash plants grew slow in May and early June, then around mid-June exploded in growth and the same time that edible tomatoes and squash became ripe. The cantaloupe plants grew slowly until late June.

Midseason growth rates – I begin eating mature broccoli on June 15, when the plants were three weeks old. By July 1 the five week old collards plant were over 24″ high and ready for consumption. Most tomato plants were six feet high and producing as many as 14 mature tomatoes per day. By late June the two squash plants were three feet high and producing more squash than I could eat. By mid-July the pumpkin plant vines were growing from 12 to 14 inches a day. Mature pumpkins became ready for harvest beginning in the last week in July.

Mature garden – The broccoli and collards plants thrived throughout the summer and produced food for the table regularly. Apparently these Eurasian plants “like” a combination of clay subsoil and rich, woodland topsoil. The collards plants were the tallest I have ever seen, reaching up to 32 inches.

The potato plants died in late July from the heat and dry weather. There were numerous potatoes the size of a golf ball.

The squash and spinach plants succumbed to high heat around the first of August. I never was able to obtain a significant volume of edible leaves before the spinach died. All collards plants and primary broccoli florets were eaten by this time. The broccoli plants continued to put out smaller florets. Five pumpkins had been picked by the end of the first week in August. Twelve cantaloupes were nearing maturity by the end of the first week in August.

On August 9, 2012, while I was shopping in Blairsville, someone sprayed the garden with herbicide. All plants were near death within 24 hours.

Analysis

  • A soil treatment consisting of 4-6 inches of top soil, crush mussel shells, wood ashes, bone ashes, and diluted urine produces exceptional plant growth and heavy production of fruits and vegetable during the spring and early summer.
  • The combination of ashes and urine seems to discourage predatory insects.
  • The depth of top soil was inadequate for potatoes. The potato roots were too shallow to continue growth of the potatoes during mid-summer heat. It is recommended that potatoes be planted in terraces containing at least two feet of top soil.
  • The spinach plants were put into the ground too late and seemed to have their growth inhibited by adjacent tomato plants.
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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

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