Garden Chaos – The Rest of the Story

Green frog on a grape leaf

The rest of the story… the late summer garden has turned out nothing like what I envisioned in the spring, but in some respects, is so much more. It’s hard not to get discouraged when once again, I’ve truly lost the battle against grass, thistle, and bindweed. Garden chaos rules, but neatness and control are so overrated, are they not? Here were my “Ah ha!” moments.

What Worked – or NOT – in the 2013 Garden

Winter Garden, Vincent Van Gogh: Buy through affiliate link at Art.com
Winter Garden, by Vincent Van Gogh (it looks like a dark and twisted place, does it not? You needn’t go there.)

It’s Garden Planning Season, and you know what THAT means: deep introspection to determine what worked and what didn’t, because unless you incorporate what you’ve learned into this year’s garden, you will be going forth with an impending sense of doom….

The winter is not that dark. Seriously. Lighten up already!

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To Convert an Orchard to a Food Forest, Start with the Soil

Orchard path at Barbolian FieldsWe have this old orchard on our homestead – how old is anybody’s guess. The house is over 100 years, so perhaps the trees are as well? How long do they live? It comprises 9 trees (apples, pie cherries, and an Italian prune), and despite its age, produces more than we can use, but not really enough for any kind of commercial enterprise.

The trees, like a lot of neglected orchards, are fraught with a tangle of suckers and twisted branches growing contrary to common sense. Gradually we have been pruning them back into shape, opening the centers to more light, and mowing the grass around and around. We are not ones to spray copper, sulfur, and assorted pesticides; nor have we added any fertilizers. In fact, we have rarely even watered them (they have obviously survived quite well on their own thus far, being situated alongside an irrigation ditch). It has been a learning process for us, too, and sometimes there is only so much you can do. The apples have a lot of scab. Pill bugs and earwigs enjoy them a lot. I think 4 of them are heirloom Gravensteins. They taste great.

And then one day, in reading Michael Phillips’ “The Holistic Orchard – Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way,” I began to realize that the typical orchard, planted in rows and surrounded by grass, produces in spite of the conditions we put them in. The descriptions were painfully familiar. It struck me that with a little help, this orchard could be so much more. Toby Hemenway’s book, “Gaia’s Garden,” was another eye-opener. Obviously, there are simple things we can all do to work with Nature, rather than against her.

Thus began the mission to let Nature “reclaim” the orchard.

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The Willow Room Dance

Welcome to my secret garden: the Willow Room. It didn’t start out as much – just a few twigs; but it has transformed into something truly magnificent! A place to dance and celebrate autumn!

Three Sisters Corn Patch

Thinking of a “3 Sisters’ Garden”? (corn, beans, and squash together). Can you still plant corn in the Pacific Northwest? I planted June 16 last year, sort of 3-sisters’ style (sort of not). Great results! Read on!

Permaculture by Nature

Before we coined the word, “Permaculture,” Nature was already perfecting it on her own. Here, Paul Gautschi describes his methods of mimicking nature by applying mulch in his garden. The results? Absolutely amazing! His approach has recently been featured in a film, “Back to Eden.” Happy International Permaculture Day!

Lasagna Gardening and the Great Mulch Cover-up

“Lasagna Gardening” – heard of it? read it? Here’s my review of the book and a take on a method that heaps organic matter on top of weeds and lets you kick back while nature does the work. Also a tip on slug control that doesn’t involve squishing them with your bare hands or watching them shrivel under salt.