written by Brad Blaser on September 25th, 2012
Fort George Brewery + Public House is growing. Cans of Fort George beer can be found on store shelves from Ashland, Oregon to Belingham, Washington. Our roots, however, remain firmly planted in the city of Astoria and are made up of a network of craftsmen and women who love this place and love what they do. From our brewers, to our chefs and servers – every role is played with intension and care. Every detail is important. With that in mind, when owners Chris Nemlowill and Jack Harris first began renovations of the old Fort George building, they decided to preserve the Fort George Garden. Rather than convert it to coveted off-street parking they enlisted the help of local gardener and master of her craft, Jessica Schleif. Her style of gardening is unique and the results: gorgeous!
Jessica’s work at the Fort can be seen not only in the garden plot but also around the deck, in barrel planters outside the doors and will eventually extend into and around the new ramp! We caught up with Jessica for a little Q & A about her technique and how she makes the Fort George garden and look so good.
Q: How would you describe your line of work and style of gardening?
A: I am an organic garden maker & hand tool gardener. My style is naturalistic/regional. Garden making, for me, is about the interaction between gardener and garden and accepting that nature is constantly changing.
Q: Who are your clients?
A: My clients are people that want to have places of beauty and meaning surrounding them.
Q: What made you choose this community to live and work in?
A: I chose to live in this community because of the way it made me feel inside. That was 16 years ago.
Q: In the Fort George garden you used on-site refuse (the “spent” grain) to add nourishing organic matter to the soil. Were you able to identify this resource right away?
A: I’ve been using spent grain in my gardens for 15 years. It’s such an amazing soil conditioner. I feel lucky to be gardening at the source.
Q: You have adapted your style of gardening so that you can work without power tools- what are the most valuable tools in your collection?
A: The tools I value the most are my Felco #2 secateurs and my Japanese hori hori knife. There are many others that I love, but these are almost extensions of my hands at this point.
Q: Any significant challenges that arise due to non-use of power equipment?
A: Rather than a challenge, I find that when I’m working close to the soil with my hand tools I can see and hear what the plants need, where they want to go or maybe who else we might want to invite to the garden party. I’m in much closer contact than if I was at the other end of a spray nozzle or weed-eater. It’s easier for me to build the plant communities when I’m listening.
Q: Now that the soil is much improved and the grounds are looking beautiful, what should we look forward to in the next phase of development for the FG garden?
A: More berries, more barrels and hops towers for all!