Posts Tagged ‘Back to Eden’

Garden Update ~ Last Photos Before the First Frost

In anticipation of last Friday’s potential first frost, I spent last Thursday and Friday on a mad dash to harvest in between phone and in person sessions. Although extremely busy, I also realized that Friday offered the last chance to capture the summer and early fall’s visual bounty, as well. Here are some of those photos, and yes, the frost faeries did arrive on Saturday and Sunday nights. All those lovely zinnias, cosmos and nasturtiums are now on their way to compost. What a feast for the eyes, soul and tummy we had this year! I feel so much gratitude to the Land for bringing joy and nourishment into so many lives.

front paths

This little strip of chard and geraniums still lives happily under a mini tunnel.

This little strip of chard and geraniums still lives happily under a mini tunnel.

The backyard was getting sleepy, and, as of yesterday, has largely been put to bed for winter.

The backyard was getting sleepy, and, as of yesterday, has largely been put to bed for winter.

The newly mulched areas should be a riot of tulips next spring.

The newly mulched areas should be a riot of tulips next spring.

a very small snapshot of Friday's harvest

a very small snapshot of Friday’s harvest

Thursday's harvest

Thursday’s harvest

The pineapple sage (the red flowers) said goodbye, but not before I took a cutting for next year.

The pineapple sage (the red flowers) said goodbye, but not before I took a cutting for next year.

We still have a few marigolds, which the bumblebees love at this time of year.

We still have a few marigolds, which the bumblebees love at this time of year.

Most of these flowers gave up the ghost this weekend, although the yellow calendula and pink four o'clocks have survived for now.

Most of these flowers gave up the ghost this weekend, although the yellow calendula and pink four o’clocks have survived for now.

I had left yesterday mostly open for yard clean up, and I enjoyed a gusty day full of sunshine and rustling leaves as I piled up frostbitten plants for David to run over with the mulch mower. Quick compost for raised beds! Yesterday also included distributing another six or seven bags of used coffee grounds delivered by the owner of our local coffee shop. He delivers probably 25 trash bags of spent grounds to me each season. As a thank you, I left him one of the “medium sized” green striped cushaw squashes, which as you can see in the photo above, are still huge.

I joke that I’m on everybody’s waste stream, but I truly am. Knowing I don’t drive, people here are kind enough to deliver large bike boxes, coffee grounds, and truckloads of wood mulch, pretty much all season long, whenever I ask. Friday, the yard will gratefully receive another waste stream created by attempts to manage an invasive species. the The yard will stink for a few days, but those hundreds of spring bulbs and new fruit bushes will be mighty happy for the boost, especially in the yard next door, which has never received a treatment.

I’m down to my last 200 bulbs to plant, LOL, so faeries willing, I’ll get those in by Friday in between sessions and with the much appreciated help of a gardener in training. The front easement below used to be a horrid patch of weeds and uneven ground. Last year, I had the city plant two serviceberry trees, but the rest of it sat under two feet of cardboard and wood mulch, through which grass and weeds still managed to grow until I planted everything this year. I loved the colors this summer and fall. Hopefully, all those bulbs I scattered among flowers will put on quite the welcome show for spring. Cheers!

easement

Back to Eden Multilingual DVD Indiegogo Campaign

The good folks at Back to Eden (the film that inspired my wood mulch gardening technique that has now spread to many yards in Goshen) contacted me to let me know of a new Indiegogo campaign to raise money for a multilingual DVD teaching organic farming methods to people around the world.

Selections from their email and website:

The Back to Eden Multilingual DVD will be a tool to teach organic gardening, help feed the hungry worldwide, and dramatically reduce the global impact of drought and famine! Back to Eden gardening method can reduce irrigation by 90%! HELP FUND Back to Eden Multilingual DVD TODAY! http://igg.me/at/backtoedendvd

Film Synopsis

After years of back-breaking toil in ground ravaged by the effects of man-made growing systems, Paul Gautschi has discovered a taste of what God intended for mankind in the garden of Eden. Some of the vital issues facing agriculture today include soil preparation, fertilization, irrigation, weed control, pest control, crop rotation, and PH issues. None of these issues exist in the unaltered state of nature or in Paul’s gardens and orchards. “Back to Eden” invites you to take a walk with Paul as he teaches you sustainable organic growing methods that are capable of being implemented in diverse climates around the world.
Featuring 18 languages, the Back to Eden Multilingual DVD will teach you how growing your own food can change your life. HELP FUND Back to Eden Multilingual DVD TODAY! http://igg.me/at/backtoedendvd

If you feel led, please send some love and/or funding their way. If you’ve not seen the film, Back to Eden, I highly recommend it, whatever your faith or gardening ability. Paul Gautschi’s enthusiasm is contagious, and he really has a way of connecting his spirituality with the abundance of the land. I’ve hauled something like 27,000 pounds of wood mulch around our little yard since April 2013, and even I cannot believe the transformation of this once neglected, weedy, unhealthy, broken land. Vitality, beauty and productivity have returned. My heart fills with joy to walk outside now, whereas when we first moved to Goshen, I called it “soul crushing” to leave our house. Miracles do happen, and sometimes they begin with one man sharing an inspired idea. That, and a whole messa wood mulch. 😉

Garden Update: Pumpkins, Pickles, Kraut, Cardboard and Mulch … Oh, and Flowers!

It’s been awhile since I posted a garden update, but that’s not for lack of things going on in the garden. On the contrary, I’ve been too busy doing to post about doing. Here are some recent photos and commentary:

These backyard raised beds are humming with activity and color. You can also just catch a peek of the goji berry bushes against the neighbors' south facing garage.

These backyard raised beds are humming with activity and color. You can also just catch a peek of the goji berry bushes against the neighbors’ south facing garage.

Our first fairy tale pumpkin has made an appearance. We have some others started, too, but not this big.

Our first fairy tale pumpkin has made an appearance. We have some others started, too, but not this big.

The five-way dwarf apple tree continues to leaf out. It's doing much better than the dwarf fruit cocktail tree and the service berry trees I also planted from bare root. Those have minimal leafing and/or just a hint of buds.

The five-way dwarf apple tree continues to leaf out. It’s doing much better than the dwarf fruit cocktail tree and the service berry trees I also planted from bare root. Those have minimal leafing and/or just a hint of buds.

Meyer Lemon Tree and friends. He recently got staked for better posture. In the foreground you can see our mystery ornamental, hyssop, good bugs mix, and in the background, our quince, black lace elderberry and some sunflowers.

Meyer Lemon Tree and friends. He recently got staked for better posture. In the foreground you can see our mystery ornamental, hyssop, good bugs mix, and in the background, our quince, black lace elderberry and some sunflowers.

Our everbearing mulberry tree "doubled its height" when I added two more stakes for its floppy form. We have another mulberry tree for the birds. This one's for us!

Our everbearing mulberry tree “doubled its height” when I added two more stakes for its floppy form. We have another mulberry tree for the birds. This one’s for us!

In other vertical gardening news, the red malabar spinach has gone to flower before producing much in the way of vines or leaves. It's just been too cool this summer for the heat loving crops like okra, basil and malabar spinach to thrive. On the flip side, that makeshift trellis has been great for a black raspberry bush that's tripled in size this season.

In other vertical gardening news, the red malabar spinach has gone to flower before producing much in the way of vines or leaves. It’s just been too cool this summer for the heat loving crops like okra, basil and malabar spinach to thrive. On the flip side, that makeshift trellis has been great for a black raspberry bush that’s tripled in size this season.

The scarlet runner bean teepees have formed a hedge!

The scarlet runner bean teepees have formed a hedge!

Our other trellised black raspberry bushes nicely showcase the cardboard paths getting ready for mulch.

Our other trellised black raspberry bushes nicely showcase the cardboard paths getting ready for mulch.

Yes, we have more mulch! This is the third load this size or larger this year. I'll need to clear it fast, because I don't think I'm technically allowed to have it on the easement spilling over into the road.

Yes, we have more mulch! This is the third load this size or larger this year. I’ll need to clear it fast, because I don’t think I’m technically allowed to have it on the easement spilling over into the road.

At least the butterfly garden up front distracts attention from the mulch. :)

At least the butterfly garden up front distracts attention from the mulch. 🙂

The bee habitat helps, too.

The bee habitat helps, too.

So does this happy polyculture up front.

So does this happy polyculture up front.

And these crazy tall sunflowers bloomed just as the Lemon Queen ones started looking spent.

And these crazy tall sunflowers bloomed just as the Lemon Queen ones started looking spent.

Perhaps most exciting, though: we finally, after nearly a year, have rain barrels installed! We still need a couple tweaks for maximum efficiency and flow, plus my Mother Nature and Tree of Life stickers, but otherwise, they're good to go.

Perhaps most exciting, though: we finally, after nearly a year, have rain barrels installed! We still need a couple tweaks for maximum efficiency and flow, but otherwise, they’re good to go.

Exciting times inside, as well: this past week I've made two kinds of sauerkraut and two batches of pickles. Our cabbage and cucumber harvests are off the hook. Apparently, they like this "Northern California Coastal" summer as much as I do.

Exciting times inside, as well: this past week I’ve made two kinds of sauerkraut and two batches of pickles. Our cabbage and cucumber harvests are off the hook. Apparently, they like this “Northern California Coastal” summer as much as I do.

There’s more, but that gives a glimpse into life at Faery-Hof, as my dad named our little plot of neglected land loved and harmonized into beauty and productivity. I still see all the things that need to be done, but compared to last year? We’ve come a long way, baby! Happy Sunday!

Early August in the Gardens

Some photos from today’s wandering in the yard. 🙂

Gourd

So far, I love everything about this Serpent Gourd plant! A single plant has covered my 4′ x 8′ trellis, and then some. The leaves are edible; the flowers are innocent and delightful; it’s completely resistant to normal curcubit diseases; and from what I hear, the young gourds are like a white version of zucchini. This will be fabulous, since we mainly use zucchini for making raw food “pasta” or dehydrated “French fries.” We won’t need to explain the green to any skeptical guests.

Pumpkin

The Fairy Tale Pumpkins have also begun to blossom, and they look so pretty in their polyculture with Scarlet Runner Beans, red geraniums, borage, sea kale, peppermint and calendula.

From the north

Even the view from the north side of the gardens looks lush. This peppermint has flowered, and continues to provide many, many iced teas for me, David’s sister and other guests. The zinnias seem to like it, and some beans have claimed the mint as a trellis! To the left, you can see a watermelon bed, more zinnias, borage, and to the upper left, my new periwinkle blue raised bed. I couldn’t resist! I have wanted one of these since I saw a similar wooden one years ago on the cover of Gaia’s Garden. When Gardener’s Supply put them on sale, I figured I can always use another raised bed. Plus, it will provide much needed color in the winter.

apple tree

In other exciting news, my 5-in-1 apple tree, which I planted bareroot a couple weeks ago, has new leaves! You can see it here with one of the strawberry plants that will eventually provide groundcover over the mulch.

Cottage garden and Mini Mt. Mulchmore

Speaking of mulch, here’s part of the front yard cottage garden, looking out toward the street. On the easement, you can see Mini Mt. Mulchmore, which will hopefully disappear today, only to be replaced by its larger cousin as I continue to mulch out pretty much the entire yard before replanting. That very front area with Mini Mt. Mulchmore will eventually become a dedicated hummingbird garden to appease the little guy who now calls our yard home.

butterfly garden

Our butterfly garden up front appears to be more popular with the bees than the butterflies.

Butterfly on Liatris

For some reason, the butterflies appear to prefer the same plants in other parts of the yard.

morning glory

No matter, though, our entire yard is a pollinator’s delight!

Bee and Butterfly garden

I am seriously considering a beehive next year, but I’d rather get on the list for the guy in South Bend who keeps wild bee populations all over Elkhart and St. Joseph’s Counties.

Cardoon!

Once this cardoon (a relative of the artichoke) blooms, we should be even more popular with the bees.

Guarden bed

In case it seems like mostly flowers growing, rest assured, we have a lot of food, as well. The “Guarden” Bed cold frame supports have become a summer cucumber trellis, with vinyl trellis wrapped around them and reinforced by bamboo poles. I still haven’t decided if I’m pleased or disappointed that my “Brussels sprouts” plants from Whole Foods turned out to be very large cabbages. I think I’m pleased, since David’s sister found two fermenting crocks for me. We will have some yummy sauerkraut, and unlike the Brussels sprouts, those cabbages can come out soon enough to plant fava beans for winter soil replenishing.

Also shown in the above photo: some prolific Red Russian kale, marigolds, geraniums, mint, cilantro, garlic chives, parsnips, carrots and lima beans, plus in the far background, sunflowers, cantaloupe, basil, mint, zinnias, calypso beans, grape vine, calendula, borage, watermelon and pumpkin. We will have loads and loads of cantaloupe and a respectable crop of watermelons, but they are not ripe yet. Alas, every day, I sniff the cantaloupe, but it’s not ready. As my friend Raven tells me, “Patience, grasshopper!”

Blessings and abundance to you!

Earth Day Gardening Update

Happy Earth Day! In honor of our mutual Mama, I thought I’d share some recent photos from the next season of Mad Scientist Gardening. Actually, I just clicked that link to May 26, 2013, and I’m feeling a whole lot better about my progress! We’ve come a long way, baby … but still have miles before we sleep …

On April 1, 2014, I started 72 little seed pots in a Burpee Seed Starter Kit, along with about 25 others, which I let germinate under another set of fluorescent lights in our basement, as well as upstairs in the office. It has been seed central here for all of April.

April 1

April 1

Seedlings today: I need to repot some of the larger ones so that the little guys get enough light.

Seedlings today: I need to repot some of the larger ones so that the little guys get enough light.

Office seeds 4/1/14

Office seeds 4/1/14

Office seedlings today

Office seedlings today

Yesterday, I began another round of seeds:

I decided to plant the warmer crops in at least two rounds, in case I get hit with leafhoppers and squash vine beetles again this year. This is round one of the squash family, and I'll be scattering some sunflower seeds soon. We already have some sprouting from last year, which I'll need to cover from tonight's frost.

I decided to plant the warmer crops in at least two rounds, in case I get hit with leafhoppers and squash vine beetles again this year. This is round one of the squash family, and I’ll be scattering some sunflower seeds soon. We already have some sprouting from last year, which I’ll need to cover from tonight’s frost.

Newly planted seeds warming on our sunny porch and mini-greenhouse, which just gets used as a rack. Holy off-gas of the plastic! Maybe next year...

Newly planted seeds warming on our sunny porch and mini-greenhouse, which just gets used as a rack. Holy off-gas of the plastic! Maybe next year…

Last week marked the arrival of some long-anticipated fruit trees, a dwarf lilac, Alpine strawberries, lingonberry bushes, other fruit bushes and a scabrosa rose, which supposedly makes 5 inch flowers and huge hips. I had offered a Reiki class in Goshen back in February and wisely allowed some people to trade yard work hour for hour. It was so wonderful having knowledgeable help and extra hands planting all the trees and other plants:

Here's a still dormant "sweet" quince tree.

Here’s a still dormant “sweet” quince tree.

Our rose is the happiest so far, because, why, yes! We do have extremely acidic soil, which roses love. Fruit trees, not so much. I've started foliar sprays of Sea Magic, and they seem to be recovering from their shock. This rose has been happy from the start.

Our rose is the happiest so far, because, why, yes! We do have extremely acidic soil, which roses love. Fruit trees, not so much. I’ve started foliar sprays of Sea Magic, and they seem to be recovering from their shock. This rose has been happy from the start.

Looking at this original photo makes me feel better about the one Alpine strawberry plant that I may have killed by accidentally saturating its leaves with the essential oil based Squirrel Stopper. Oops! "Do not spray on plants." That one guy didn't look to happy to begin with, though. Maybe Sea Magic will work its magic.

Looking at this original photo makes me feel better about the one Alpine strawberry plant that I may have killed by accidentally saturating its leaves with the essential oil based Squirrel Stopper. Oops! “Do not spray on plants.” That one guy didn’t look to happy to begin with, though. Maybe Sea Magic will work its magic.

The structure of the yard continues to change, as well. Some day when I feel the yard has really begun to reflect my full vision for it, I will post a true before and after photo. The before photo is so desolate, weedy and embarrassing, but I’ve saved it for when the front yard has started blooming into what I see in my head. Until then, last year’s massive wood mulching project has transformed into this year’s coffee and leaf mulching project to build new raised beds for beneficial bug-friendly flower mixes.

A couple weeks ago, I received an email from a neighbor asking if anyone had need of coffee grounds for compost. I jumped at the chance, forgetting that this neighbor happens to own the local coffee shop. Imagine my surprise when he dropped off 5 huge kitchen bags full of grounds! Worms love coffee grounds, and brewing coffee takes out most of the acidity. I added a bunch of the nitrogen rich grounds to our compost pile, but also mixed some in with the leaf mulch that’s rotting down and killing grass before I plant.

Coffee grounds near Mount Mulchmore

Coffee grounds near Mount Mulchmore

That same neighborly email thread allowed me to get rid of share six huge garbage bags of leaf mulch with another neighbor, which means Mount Mulchmore is more of an East Coast than a West Coast sized mountain.

The concrete hauling project remains my one-woman clean up the neighborhood attempt. I’ve gradually hauled over about half the smashed up concrete that had been looking ugly in front of the apartments next door. Fortunately, the buildings are on a corner and the ugly piles face away from our house, so it’s not completely obvious where their ugliness ends and my intended beauty begins. Of course, that means I’ve got much longer walks with the wheelbarrow, so this project has stretched over at least a month, probably more, and it’s not done yet.

I wasn’t sure about the concrete slabs, but I think my garden faery landscaper must have cast a Glamour on that concrete. We’ve now had many, many guests and yard workers over in the past couple weeks and people keep asking (sincerely), “Where did you get the beautiful stone?!” LOL … but, hey, enough of those comments inspired me to haul more slabs and build more beds. The “stones” have now begun to unify the front and back yard, and they’ll allow me to make raised beds in an otherwise dead zone of a foot of wood mulch over landscape cloth — my desperate attempt to make a dent in the thousands of dandelions going to seed each hour last year. No, I do not exaggerate!

The bed on the left already holds chocolate mint that had taken over a different raised bed. The one on the right will house marigolds and other beneficial flowers, and the one directly behind it already has yarrow and wild violets. I will plant more in there as I have time and weather permits.

The bed on the left already holds chocolate mint that had taken over a different raised bed. The one on the right will house marigolds and other beneficial flowers, and the one directly behind it already has yarrow and wild violets. I will plant more in there as I have time and weather permits.

This long bed will hold the beneficial bugs mix of various clovers, dill, carrots and other pretty, nectar-y things.

This long bed will hold the beneficial bugs mix of various clovers, dill, carrots and other pretty, nectar-y things.

The above photo also shows the beginnings of another concrete raised bed to the left, which already holds a poorly selected site for asparagus and (hopefully) cardoon, if the seeds sprout. Everyone steps on my asparagus, so I realized I needed to create some visual deterrent. Perhaps a bunny deterrent, as well. It will also let me add a lot more compost and some marigolds. Unfortunately, completing that bed involves uprooting about 50 more dandelions. Note: I already have nearly a five gallon bucket full just from this weekend:

These will be cleaned and separated -- roots from shoots, with the shoots put in smoothies and the roots roasted for dandelion tea/"coffee". Uprooting dandelions is vigorous work! I've earned that tea, LOL, and really ... it has hardly made a dent in our volunteer cash crop.

These will be cleaned and separated — roots from shoots, with the shoots put in smoothies and the roots roasted for dandelion tea/”coffee”. Uprooting dandelions is vigorous work! I’ve earned that tea, LOL, and really … it has hardly made a dent in our volunteer cash crop.

Back to the previous photo, though, I am so thrilled with how great the triple-tiered raised beds filled up! A four-person family helped me on Saturday afternoon, and I see from last year’s post that those raised beds never looked so good. I thought they had flopped after a season of growth, but it turns out that two people really weren’t adequate to fill them the right way. They stand much higher and firmer now, awaiting bush beans, calendula, borage and cantaloupe later this year. The half gallon milk jugs in that same photo are protecting fava bean sprouts from the squirrels and bunnies, who devoured my first planting of fava’s. Ohhh, they want those sprouts! Every day, I find evidence of them attempting to burrow under the milk jugs. Thank you, hidden gopher wire! Nobody’s climbing up from underneath my garden!

Sooo, that’s the update. Today, my friend Suzanna’s taking me to pick up a rose bush root ball that someone on Freecycle dug out in order to put in a new driveway. I have no idea where it will go, but it supposedly looks and smells wonderful in bloom. Plus, it’s free. Also free and coming soon: two serviceberry trees from the City of Goshen, which will go on our front easement on the side of the house with the herb garden.

I love how these plants will please my grandmothers, who both passed last year. I have Grandma Van’s little houses on our front porch, and these will look out on the serviceberry trees that birds love. Grandma Van had such a magical relationship with birds! Gramma Irene loved roses and tended so many rose bushes in her lifetime. I’ll now have two, and a friend/student and I planted dozens and dozens of white lilies to edge the back of the concrete lined front bed. Irene Lilly will be pleased. 🙂

Lasagna Gardening and Fall Garden Update

It’s that time again! Most people think of Autumn as the time that gardening goes to sleep, but did you know that Fall offers a fantastic time to let Nature do (some of) next year’s garden prep for you? If this year’s fresh produce has ever had you vowing to start a garden next Spring, only to feel the enthusiasm wane when next year rolls around, now is a perfect time to lasagna garden — also known as sheet mulch. Instead of hauling away your leaves now, and then constructing a raised bed and buying expensive soil to fill it in a rush next Spring, you can use Fall’s bounty of leaves and yard waste to begin preparing and fertilizing next year’s garden.

It’s actually very easy! Just lay down a several layers of newspaper or one layer of thick cardboard over whatever area of lawn you’d like to turn into garden. If you’re using newspaper, pick a non-windy day, or make sure you have something to weight down the papers. Otherwise, you’ll just make a mess. 🙂 On top of the newspaper/cardboard, start layering up natural waste: leaves, straw, unfinished compost (i.e., whatever fresh kitchen scraps or compost that hasn’t had time to rot down yet). Mix that up with some peat moss and some kind of minerals (rock dust, vermiculite, etc.), or just keep layering organic matter. Then top it off with some kind of untreated mulch. Surprise, surprise, I’m using wood mulch, as inspired by the film, Back to Eden:

mulch

Believe it or not, that’s my fifth(!) pile of wood mulch since April, and I’ve already moved half of it before taking this photo. I’ve been so happy with the wood mulch’s ability to retain water and keep weeds at bay. I’ve only watered our front herb and flower garden twice this year:

herbs

When you layer several inches or more of wood mulch on top of a lasagna garden, then everything rots down over the winter, enriching the soil. When I recently divided some of the creeping thyme out front, I found five earthworms within about four square inches of surface soil. Every time I move anything around in this wood mulched area, I find earthworms, a true sign of healthy soil, and I didn’t even lasagna garden the herb bed! I just put a layer of mulch on top of our landlord’s layer of mulch from last year. Nature did the rest. Since herbs prefer poor soil, I didn’t want to waste my time making it too rich with amendments. If you want to grow a decorative and culinary herb garden, laying down some wood mulch this Fall will get your plot ready for next Spring’s seeds or transplants.

I share many of my crazy gardening projects on this blog, because people keep telling me they enjoy the Mad Scientist Gardening experiments, but I do want to note that you can have a fantastic garden without the level of work I’ve put into our yard. We just moved into a place with a tremendously ugly, damaged, weedy, sad, neglected yard — a yard we eagerly accepted because our landlord gave us permission to do whatever we wanted with it. For me, this yard has represented a blank canvas to turn something completely overgrown and forgotten into something gorgeous and functional. It’s a creative outlet much like painting the discarded doors into potent portals. I “paint” with flowers and use plants as form, with food as the function and intention. But anyone can garden in any setting, whether on a small patio in containers, a sunny backyard plot, or turning your front yard into edible landscaping. Lasagna gardening or sheet mulching just represents one more way of enriching the soil to ensure success.

front yard

This latest batch of mulch has gone towards lasagna gardening/mulching out a huge swath of front yard, turning it into four beds with a circular path and three side paths for easy plant access. I love the energy going around the circle with my cart full of mulch! It’s quite fun and a big contrast to the straight lines and rougher look of the rest of our street. This last load included two different types of trees, so I decided to use the lighter, harder wood for the paths, and then the darker, softer wood for the top lasagna layers. I’ve planted mums at the edges of each path so that I remember the boundaries next Spring in the event that everything sinks down over the Winter.

I’ve had so much fun rereading “Edible Front Yard” now that I know something about gardening! I first read that book from the Madison Public Library back when I didn’t know anything about planting zones, soil building or microclimates. It makes sooo much more sense now, and I actually recognize many of the edible ornamentals she mentions. It’s fun to imagine how different shapes, heights and colors will combine in each of the four beds in order to create a burst of beauty that also just happens to be edible.

I didn’t get my intended roses and fruit trees planted this Fall; that will need to happen next Spring, as I’ve run out of time for the tasks I’ve already begun. I still have five raspberry bushes/canes to plant out back. Poor things, they’ve sat in pots for two seasons! Speaking of seasons, I’ve also enjoyed figuring out how to bring hints of color and beauty to the yard year round. I found Goshen quite grim last Winter, especially our street, so this year I’ve prioritized delighting my senses even in the middle of December, January and February.

Again, you can have a fabulous garden without needing to figure out all these angles. Moving into this refurbished cottage with the blank slate lawn in a forgotten corridor of Goshen was quite the artistic challenge. I’ve chosen to explode creativity all over the yard, because we’ve had nothing to lose. A more normal setup might just require a bit of creativity to keep a small front yard plot looking good enough for an HOA. I, on the other hand, am in process of shifting a mixed industrial neighborhood plot (formerly the most neglected in the entire neighborhood) into a magical faery paradise. It’s happening, and it’s what I feel called to do … but I don’t want to intimidate people with the level of work I’ve expended. Any efforts to grow even some of your own food and to beautify the world even just a tiny bit have positive ripple effects in your life and in the world. I just enjoy a challenge. 🙂

winter Guarden

Thus, we have another Fall/Winter “Guarden” crop coming in, which will soon be covered by a cold frame. Planting these babies in early August resulted in lots of greens and root crops coming in now.

back yard gardens

I finally cleared out the cherry tomato plant from the InstaBed, a plant that had spread to three beds and my asparagus! I forgot we even had a gnome beneath all that fruit and foliage.

chard

We’ve also got some HUGE chard these days. Massive leaves.

back garden

You can see I still have a few “starts” to transplant. It might be too late, but no sign of frost quite yet.

amish paste

Our Amish paste tomatoes continue to grow and have, more importantly, confirmed to me the suspicion that our ground soil is low in calcium. I had heard that a) lots of dandelion flowers means low calcium soil and b) that tomato plants are excellent indicators of soil health. I did not water these with milk as often as others, because I just wanted to see what happened. Sure enough, the dreaded blossom end rot has struck some of the bigger tomatoes just before they ripen. Blossom end rot is a sign of calcium deficient soil. I’ll add lime and other amendments as I prepare various in ground/trellis beds for next year. Thank you, Nature, for confirming without a soil test. 🙂 I also know that my special, secret soil treatment for organic farms will pay big dividends, since that formula’s loaded with calcium. Yay!

front bed from back

As I walked back around the yard, I caught a glimpse of the front lasagna garden from behind. Just like flower arranging in a vase, I enjoy flower and plant arranging outside in ways that please from all angles. The center bed will change dramatically this weekend as I add a mix of compost and mulch to the flowers. Instead of sunflowers there next year, I plan to have decorative alliums — very Seussian — and zinnias for butterflies, with “Evening Sun” sunflowers on the North side and this year’s Lemon Queen out back. A foretaste of next year’s edible front yard:

Evening Sun image from the seed packet

Evening Sun image from the seed packet

purple opal basil

purple kohlrabi from Seed Savers Exchange

purple kohlrabi from Seed Savers Exchange

scarlet runner beans

scarlet runner beans

cabbage

amaranth

amaranth

And, probably out back:

Mandan Bride Corn

Mandan Bride Corn

Fairy Tale Pumpkins

Fairy Tale Pumpkins

On the front trellis (with the star pictured above):

vining, non-bolting Malabar Spinach

vining, non-bolting Malabar Spinach

Can’t wait for these, some golden fennel and the rest of my medicinal herbs, too. If all goes well, I will have enriched the soil enough and mulched enough to have a relatively low-maintenance and low-water feast for the eyes, nose, mouth and belly.

Happy Gardening!

Spooky Stuff in the Garden

Anytime you engage Nature, you’re confronted not only with Life but also with Death. The Cycle of Life includes birth, growth, death, decomposition and rebirth from the enriched matter. Decaying mulch, worms, discarded plant parts — all contribute to a rich compost that builds the soil and strengthens the ecosystem.

But sometimes ya just gotta laugh! I don’t know if I’m having extra, over-the-top spooky stuff this week because some faeries are having a giggle fest, or if it’s all part of the Goshen gardening package. Some of this stuff is so odd and macabre that I just had to share.

Death Card from the highly recommended Robin Wood Tarot: http://www.robinwood.com/Catalog/Books/BookPages/RWTDeck.html

Death Card from the highly recommended Robin Wood Tarot: http://www.robinwood.com/Catalog/Books/BookPages/RWTDeck.html

As regular blog readers know, I’ve been wood mulching the heck out of our yard. Inspired by the film “Back to Eden,” as well as other farms that experience incredibly rich soil and eventually no need to water, I looked at our 10% grass, 90% weeds and tree stumps yard and thought, “Build up!” I made arrangements with a local arborist to have truckloads of wood mulch dumped into our yard and driveway (for free), and I’ve been mulching pretty much since Easter. We also had David’s parents save five huge garbage bags of leaves for us last Fall in anticipation of this year’s garden.

We’ve had good success with leaf mulch in the past, and I’ve recently learned even more about the benefits of mulching. Not only does the mulch save on watering efforts and costs, but it also enhances the mycelium in the soil. Mycelium is the branching, threadlike, vegetative part of fungus, and it has all sorts of amazing properties. Some researchers even claim that mycelium can save the world.

Well, let me tell you, mold and fungus can also creep you out! Off and on for the past couple weeks, we’ve had this funky looking foamy stuff that’s rock hard show up in little spots around the yard, usually around stray wood mulch. The other day, I saw a sadly dead nasturtium that I’d been meaning to pull out surrounded by what looked like sprayed on foam. It was pink and white with flecks of red. It hadn’t killed the nasturtium sprout. That would be the leaf hoppers, but despite its fluffy appearance, this foamy substance was just as hard as the stuff on the wood mulch. Later in the week, I noticed some of it on top of the pile of pine needles awaiting compost and blueberry bushes. I watched through the window as it shifted from white to pink to bright yellow. Then, this morning, I found the same foamy strangler around my very happy chives. What the?!

Dog Vomit Fungus Two

I should have taken a photo before I broke the strangling foam up with a stick, but I wanted to poke it to see whether it felt the same as the earlier stuff. Yep, except this was kind of sticky, gooey, like caulk before it dries. It concentrated itself at the base of the chives, which actually appear to be growing even better than before. The photo shows a little dish of slug beer, as well as leaves of the very happy watercress making its way around the bed.

I came inside and begged David to come out to the garden to look at this alarming stuff. He did but didn’t have any words of wisdom other than his usual “the internet is a powerful tool.” I came inside and searched “slime fungus strangling plants in the garden.” Well, it turns out we have “Dog Vomit Fungus.”

Dog Vomit Fungus

Dog Vomit Fungus

I kid you not, there are threads and threads of people completely freaked out by this apparently harmless mold. Someone claims it is one of the oldest life forms on our planet — the first mold to move towards decaying matter. It usually occurs near mulch or on lawns after saturating rains — both of which we’ve had.

The thing is, this Dog Vomit Fungus makes me giggle (now that I know what it is), especially after I had just decided to let a devoured zinnia put forth a flower anyway. I call it “Skeletor Zinnia,” and god/dess bless the little one, it’s got almost no leaves but seems to be bursting a bud:

Skeletor Zinnia

Skeletor Zinnia

And then, there’s the highly informative, but certainly odd phone conversation I had with the friendly neighborhood Lowe’s Garden Center guy yesterday afternoon. I was calling for Bonnie (non-GMO) chard and kale starts, since my sprouts appear to be irresistible to something. They appear and disappear within hours of each other. He didn’t have anymore starts for me, but he shared some helpful garden pest tips.

I asked about rabbits (ours are ginormous, possibly hares!) and he said that if I didn’t want to fence in the garden, I could “collect the urine of a wild fox and circle that around the perimeter.” Ummmm, yeah. While I’m conjuring a wild fox to pee in a jar for me, should I add eye of newt and toe of frog? I asked if we could just use human pee, but he said “only urine from a natural predator will work.” I told him I thought fencing the garden would be easier than catching a wild fox and forcing it to pee at my discretion. He seemed surprised but eventually said that I was “probably right.”

He then informed me that I could also spread human hair around my plants. “If those rabbits get a whiff of human hair, they’ll run away from your plants.” “So, I can either catch a wild fox and make him pee on demand, or I can just trim my hair and put the ends out there?” “Yep. That’ll work just fine.”

For years I have cut my own hair with pinking sheers, because my hair grows as fast as our dandelions. I’ve been using the pinking sheers, but also intensely looking for some layering scissors I’d misplaced last December. (Like, looking for them several times per week, because I have a lot of hair that gets heavy at the ends.) No matter where I looked, those scissors would never turn up. Last night, I decided to test Mr. Lowe’s Garden Guy’s theory, so I went into the bathroom, mindlessly picked up a bag I’ve looked in several times before, and “lo” and behold: the missing scissors, and only the missing scissors.

Hair for garden

I thinned out my hair and then sprinkled the layering leftovers around my lower level plants last night, thinking about voodoo and wondering if the bunnies would run in terror or if they’d gather my hair, cast a spell and ban me from my own garden.

Mr. Lowe’s Garden Guy also advised me not to let David mow down any of our clover, but there’s nothing particularly spooky about that. Clover offers more nutrition than most garden plants, so the rabbits will eat that instead. Nonetheless, in addition to a growing clover patch, we’ve now got witchy red hair thinnings, decaying leaves, rotting wood, Dog Vomit Fungus and Skeletor Zinnia, all in fairly close proximity.

If only it was Halloween, I could probably charge admission. 😉