Wednesday, June 21, 2017

One Man, One Acre, Feeding Hundreds: Karl's Garden

Karl Gaskill in his extraordinary garden tending his best crop: Butter Crunch Lettuce
First day of summer, Stehekin. Karl hard at work, doing what he loves

 What will you find at the exact head of Lake Chelan? Tucked under a rocky bluff and hemmed by tall firs, you will find an unexpected jewel.  Lifting a little rope latch, opening a quiet wooden gate of branches, you enter an atmosphere of loveliness and peace. Walking down a well worn pathway edged by butterflies and colorful flowers melts away your cares. Deep emerald green growth tells the story in each row. Precise rows and plantings grow in triumph and abundance in soils rich with hard work and minerals. This is Karl's Garden.

"I garden in a swamp," Karl quips about his location. If you dig ten inches under the soil at full lake level, you hit water. He hasn't watered the garden for two weeks and it is the first day of summer with a hot sun beaming.  Nor will he have to water the rest of the summer. Plants are thriving everywhere you turn.  With  unusual sub-irrigation, roots reach down happily and grow grow grow.

Potato plants far ahead of the rest of the Stehekin valley gardens
However, one can hardly call it a "swamp." Karl's tedious and fine work has transformed this unlikely wetland acre into an organic oasis of delicious beauty. Something about the order and care of the plants, not to mention their significant superior size and quality over most produce is satisfying and inspiring.

Snap peas will be ready soon
"Most people plant their vegetables too close together," Karl reveals speaking about his methods. "Exact spacing is the only way I can do this amount of work alone. After initial springtime weeding, my work is done with a hoe. Spacing just right is the key, then the plant takes over and shades out the weeds."

Yum...the best spinach salad awaits here

Along with sub-irrigation and perfect spacing, Karl invests a large amount of time preparing his soils. Rye grass cover crops are half the enrichment, planted and tilled in the off seasons.  Other enhancement comes from the barn. "People ask me if I hire people to help, and I say yes, I have five employees," Karl smiles pointing towards the paddock where his five goats are resting in the morning sun. They produce enough manure along with leftover alfalfa stalks to cover his whole garden an inch deep every spring.

"Whatchou lookin' at?"
 If you ask about beekeeping, you will receive an in depth, enthusiastic answer about the wonders of bee life. If you ask about challenges, you will learn about certain bacteria and pests and how to deal with them organically. If you ask about which herbs will help your skin, your digestion or any ailment, you will receive a careful, thoughtful and correct remedy from this gardener. He is always right if you follow his advice exactly.  Karl has time to talk to you, even when busy with the thirty or forty people that stop in every day on average.

Karl will always take time with visitors and questions
"I think of the garden as more than a place to sell food. I get to meet the best people that come to Stehekin, and connect in a deeper way in these peaceful surroundings. I like people to be inspired and healed."

You will find in his friendly outdoor store, tinctures for every ailment, soaps, lotions, homemade maple syrup from Stehekin, snacks and an array of natural products. Front and foremost of all his products are his golden jars of honey, coming straight from the hives on sight. "I sell up to 800 jars a season." Karl also makes a creamy wonderful goat cheese that  sells up to 1,000 lbs every year.
Platformed hives to reduce bear temptation

  Hard work and dedication are evident everywhere in "The Garden," as we call it in Stehekin. Karl says simply, "I am doing what I love to do. A quarter of this food goes to my own self sufficiency, and the rest is for sale." Karl supplies the restaurants in the valley including the Stehekin Pastry Company and Stehekin Valley Ranch, but also has high demand from nearby Holden Village. "They would buy every single thing I grow if I let them." As it is, Karl does sell every bit of what he grows and makes. We are more than fortunate to have this kindly neighbor in Stehekin and his beautiful, inspiring garden full of good health! Thank you, Karl!

A rare moment: Karl at rest

Visit Karl in Stehekin for the best organic produce you will ever taste. And if you have time, sit down and ask him a question. He will always take time to answer with a sincere smile.

"The Garden" is located approximately 1.5 miles north of the Stehekin Landing. Open Daily, 9-5. l.c.


  1. The spinach is best I have ever had! Wish it could stay in season all summer! Karl's healing advice is definitely spot on. Thanks for the article . . . He deserves the attention!

  2. Veges on "steroids"... unbelievable how humongous organics can grow!

  3. Veges on "steroids"... unbelievable how humongous organics can grow!

  4. Veges on "steroids"... unbelievable how humongous organics can grow!

  5. Even just gazing on the garden while driving or walking by is good for the soul!

  6. Truly one of my favorite places on earth! Thank you Karl!