Fish Hook site now home to raised garden beds

Larry Cwiak's gardening advice is: Build a raised bed.

Larry Cwiak’s sunflowers head skyward at a rate of six inches a day.
Contributed / Jean Ruzicka
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When Larry Cwiak and wife Linda began eyeing sites to retire, the Californians scoured New Mexico, Oregon and Utah, soon to discover housing prices had skyrocketed.

Turtles march off to sea, an artistic touch in Larry Cwiak's garden.
Contributed / Jean Ruzicka

His children, having grown up in Fargo with their mother, steered them east, specifically to an abode on the Fish Hook River in Park Rapids.

“There’s nothing like this for the dollar,” the East River Drive kayak enthusiast said. “On a river. In town.”

The fourth garden of his lifetime was about to sprout, having gained tutelage from his grandfather and father, despite being a grumbling weed puller as a kid.

The house underwent a bit of renovation at the hands of the ceramic tile and stone installer, the couple moving in the summer of 2020.


The considerable property area was one of the selling points, but use of a tractor was out of the question. A wheel barrel became his mode of transportation for dirt hauling

Raised beds are Larry Cwiak's signature horticultural endeavor.
Contributed / Jean Ruzicka

The site next to the garage was not ideal from a sunlight perspective, “but enough for pretty to happen.”

He mapped out the amount of sun each spot in the garden received and studied the “limiting factors” inherent to gardening – sunlight, soil, water, air and nutrients. He’s testing sites to determine where tomatoes do better.

Ten raised beds, each one to host its own garden, began to emerge. He’d originally drawn different configurations for them, and considered using cinder blocks. But corrugated metal bottoms with a cedar top was the choice for the structures. Wood from the transfer station was repurposed for the bottoms. And sphagnum moss and cow manure were introduced. Worm castings and chicken compost, replete with azomite for minerals, acts as fertilizer.

His first Minnesota winter was spent conducting research, deciding to plant a variety to “confuse the insects.”

Larry was not frustrated by Minnesota’s short gardening season but emboldened. “The fun part is that you can do something different every year.”

He’s pleased with the bees’ response to his endeavors, arriving in number.

Sunflowers, heading skyward at a rate of six inches a day in July, reign supreme, shading lettuce.


Carrots, onions, cantaloupe, purple basil, bare root strawberries, potatoes, bush beans and peas, corn, squash, watermelon and arugula sate Cwiak tastebuds.

His advice: build a raised bed. They are easier to weed.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, when harvested, continue to undergo chemical changes that can cause spoilage and deterioration of the product. This is why these products should be frozen as soon after harvest as possible and at their peak degree of ripeness.

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