Posts Tagged ‘Faeries Garden’

Mary Poppins Gardening

It is a little known fact that I have a Faery Garden Landscaper who goes by the alias “Heather,” but is in truth far more like Mary Poppins. She’s “practically perfect in every way,” extremely fastidious (which is as hilarious in our wild yard as in the Banks’ crazy household), and, I must say, quite the “spit spot,” pursed lips slave driver! She has great ideas, but I actually sent her on a two week vacation so that I could get caught up. Catching up has meant acquiring and installing a soaker hose system, which still needs mulching over:

soaker hose

… as well as various soil amendments for the first year wood mulched areas, whose wood chips are robbing nitrogen from my plants, not yet having broken down enough to provide nutrients. These amendments include: 30 pounds of worm castings, 1/2 a packet of Sea90, a giant bag of volcanic ash, and 1/3 of the Elemite rock dust I ordered. Last evening I was further reminded of Mary Poppins — or rather, her chimney sweep friend, Bert, when I happened to glance in the mirror after spreading volcanic ash:

Bert&Mary

Anyway, “Heather,” other Faeries and/or the Land itself have been thanking me for the soil amendments. Three times in a row, I finished applying whatever I added, only to have it begin raining within minutes of my going inside. Soft rain washed the vermicompost and various powders into the soil, and I can already see the difference in plant growth and color. Prior to adding all these goodies, the plants in the front mulched and urbanite areas were only 1/3 the size of their Garden Tower counterparts, which are growing better than anything else:

Garden Tower facing back yard

Garden Tower facing back yard

Same garden tower facing neighbors. Almost lush enough to block the satellite dish!

Same garden tower facing neighbors. Almost lush enough to block the satellite dish!

I had help with the soaker hoses (the Reiki training for yard work trades continue to work out great for everyone!), and we also got the pole bean area weeded, and some bamboo teepees installed and ready to support those scarlet runner beans:

pole beans

The area in front of the house, which received mulch in Fall 2012 and Spring and Fall 2013 didn’t need any amendments. It’s lush and low maintenance, like I intend the rest of the yard eventually will be:

Yarrow, lavender, lemon balm (in the pot), asters, forsythia, purple coneflower, yews, vines and, somewhere in there, a delphinium.

Yarrow, lavender, lemon balm (in the pot), asters, forsythia, purple coneflower, yews, vines and, somewhere in there, a delphinium.

The back gardens were also already growing well without amendments, but they got some extra goodies, too:

back yard

Polyculture InstaBed with sea kale, zinnias, calypso beans, calendula, geraniums, marigolds, Egyptian walking onions, oregano (up top), and cantaloupe.

Polyculture InstaBed with sea kale, zinnias, calypso beans, calendula, geraniums, marigolds, Egyptian walking onions, oregano (up top), and cantaloupe.

A nearby InstaBed with peas, cucumbers, cantaloupe, geraniums, garlic, marigolds, chives and calypso bush beans ... with lovage and a trellised grape vine in the background.

A nearby InstaBed with peas, cucumbers, cantaloupe, geraniums, garlic, marigolds, chives and calypso bush beans … with lovage and a trellised grape vine in the background.

The Bed Bed (a repurposed Sleep Number Bed frame) holds some seriously long fava bean pods, along with more difficult to grow (for me anyway) Fairy Tale Pumpkins:

Fava's, pumpkins, watermelon, Egyptian walking onions, sea kale, calendula, marigolds, geranium and zinnias, with scarlet runner bean sprouts under some of the milk jugs

Fava’s, pumpkins, watermelon, Egyptian walking onions, sea kale, calendula, marigolds, geranium and zinnias, with scarlet runner bean sprouts under some of the milk jugs

I have to laugh, because I don’t seem to be able to grow “easy” crops, but I do great with the “impossible” ones. I’m on my third batch of pumpkin seeds now, and yet the fava beans a farmer told me that no one can grow in the Goshen area continue to thrive. He had warned me that aphids go nuts on them, so I invited lady bugs for an early feast. We had lady bugs in March! My garden helpers in early April couldn’t believe how many they saw. Sure enough, they ate all the aphids and now some of my fava bean pods are 6 inches long. Meanwhile, things like basil, okra and pumpkins — easy enough for kids to grow — look awfully sad. Oh, well. I’m really excited about those fava beans! You can see in the distance in the other InstaBed that I need to harvest my leeks and clear out space for the calypso beans in that bed. The tall, front plants are shading my next crops. 🙂

The "Guarden" bed, minus its coldframe

The “Guarden” bed, minus its coldframe

The “Guarden” Bed has red Russian kale going to seed and gets thinned of turnips, carrots and parsnips every day, as I gradually clear the bed for bush lima beans and cucumbers, which are currently little sprouts. Already planted towards the back: Alaskan peas (almost ready to harvest), Brussels sprouts (taking over!), one round of cucumbers, and you can see garlic interspersed and nearly ready to harvest. You can also see pots of mint and geraniums in front of the bed, as I attempt to discourage whatever’s chowin’ down on my plants! I think the plants just aren’t super happy being so overcrowded, but I thought I’d confuse the bugs’ senses a bit, since I have tons of peppermint.

You can also see additional cardboard boxes where I’ve begun to smother out our “lawn” in favor of more wood mulch and/or more preferable ground covers that double as beneficial bug attractors. I’d rather let Nature do the work of hunting munchers. Wasps? You’re welcome. I just hung a solitary pollinator “Mason Bee Condo” on the back fence. Come one, come all.

Sunnies up front

Sunnies up front

My sunflowers up front have begun to recover from a severe aphid attack while I ignored them as “my hardy, low maintenance front yard plants.” Um, no. They wanted attention, too. They got spritzed with Sea Magic three days in a row, plus the full spa treatment of soaker hose, worm castings, volcanic ash, Sea90 and rock dust. They better look good after all that! LOL, but seriously. 😉

Also in the comeback zone, my “carefree, grows anywhere, drought tolerant, so easy it’s almost a weed” aronia berry bush. You can see it on the left trying to survive, while the penstemon volunteer on the right flourishes:

aronia and pentstamen

This Saint John’s Wort that I transplanted to an inopportune location last summer where it sulked and feigned death for the rest of the year has also made quite the comeback this week:

SJW

Our new scabrosa rose got its first bloom yesterday:

Scabrosa in bloom

And one formerly very angry at being transplanted sage has decided to look pretty up front:

sage in bloom

All in all, things are coming along. I still need David to help me install our rain barrels, which means I also need some bricks or other things to hold down all the cardboard boxes, since the barrels need to go on those concrete blocks. I’m almost ready for “Heather” to return from her vacation. What kind of wild project ideas she’ll have next, I do not know…..

Happy Spring!

Pink geranium

Happy Vernal Equinox 2014! It’s a sunny day here in Goshen, Indiana, perfect for planting some cold hardy spring greens in the cold frame. I’ve given myself a mini-vacation this week, finally doing a 3-Day Cleanse, which just happens to finish today. I’ve meant to do the cleanse since January 1, but I haven’t had the right window of zero obligations beyond my own scheduling. This week presented itself and once I started, I realized the perfect timing. Spring cleanse and spring cleaning!

In what may have been the gardening equivalent of grocery shopping before dinner, I spent the past two days plotting our various gardens with a newly “hired” garden faery muse. She’s really switched up my plans for the yard, but I love all the new directions, as well as the extreme variety of crops and flowers we’ll have. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds is my new favorite seed company. In rereading parts of Gaia’s Garden for the third or fourth time — but for the first time I have a cold frame and already prepared and highly varied planting spots — I realized we could get some major polycultures going here with the right combo’s of seeds. I love these old varieties, most of which offer detailed customer reviews about flavor, performance and appearance.

As a perfect spring present to myself (and Goshen, since I’ll be demo-ing it to our community), I also learned that my just-ordered Garden Tower shipped out today! I’m so excited to grow fifty plants in four square feet of space. We don’t need the extra ground space, but I talked to three of the guys at The Garden Tower Project (Colin, Joel and Tom), and I just love their enthusiasm and vision. They designed the Garden Towers after visiting Will Allen‘s Growing Power. The towers include a built-in vermicomposter (for worm castings) and use only eight cubic feet of soil to grow all those plants. I see so many possibilities for communities looking to provide winter food security in solar-panel- or wood-stove-heated greenhouses. I am not an affiliate or anything like that; I just feel called to model what’s possible for those with limited growing space.

Garden Tower partner Colin is the son of Ann Kreilkamp (exopermaculture.com), who synchronously just posted about the Garden Tower she brought down to her family in Louisiana. Click here to share more spring gardening joy!

Cheers and a Happy Birthday to my nephew, Anthony and my Schizandra and the Gates of Mu character, Haru (Japanese for “spring”).

Garden Update: Pre and Post Parental Visit

My parents visited us this past Sunday through Wednesday, giving David and me a firm deadline for various long-term yard projects. For the first time since Easter, we have no daunting pile of mulch to spread! It’s all pitchforked away on top of landscape cloth and/or cardboard, awaiting next year’s inspiration. In the meantime, the flowers decided to come out to play:

My new friend Kimber gave me two lovely campion rose bushes, which flank some of the pink echinacea.

My new friend Kimber gave me two lovely campion rose bushes, which flank some of the pink echinacea.

The sunflowers and bee-friendly wildflower mix up front are growing like crazy!

The sunflowers and bee-friendly wildflower mix up front are growing like crazy!

I brought the garden inside with a Farmer's Market bouquet that has thrived all week.

I brought the garden inside with a Farmer’s Market bouquet that has thrived all week.

My dad packed up the little wooden houses that Grandma Van used to display on her large southern windowsill. We now have sixteen Victorian style houses in two tiers on our front porch, along with an antique Spanish model train from David’s dad, and a little copper faery bicycle that David picked up at a gardening store. Funny thing about those houses: the faeries moved in fast! I would have thought they’d prefer life outside, but within fifteen minutes of me moving some of the houses to the second tier, every house was filled. My dad doesn’t subscribe to my faery chatter, but even he noticed the energy shift on the porch. It’s very difficult to take an indoor photo with the sun outside, but here’s a peek:

Wooden houses and a miniature train and bicycle, with Alfred the Red and Roger the Blue (our gnomes)

Wooden houses and a miniature train and bicycle, with Alfred the Red and Roger the Blue (our gnomes)

My parents loved the gardens, which continue in their lush state:

Our black cherry tomato plant has taken up residence away from the rest of the InstaBed, kindly giving sunshine to the calendula and marigolds it was formerly shading. I love when plants play nice!

Our black cherry tomato plant has taken up residence away from the rest of the InstaBed, kindly giving sunshine to the calendula and marigolds it was formerly shading. I love when plants play nice!

InstaBed and part of the "Bed Bed"

InstaBed and part of the “Bed Bed”

Other side of the "Bed Bed" with another lush InstaBed

Other side of the “Bed Bed” with another lush InstaBed

Cucumbers and grapes beginning to trellis

Cucumbers and grapes beginning to trellis

Today’s project was putting up our new trellises for squash and cantaloupe, as well as planting some free plant stragglers David got from Whole Foods. Our acorn squash isn’t doing the best, because I had planted two plants per crate. Today, I asked which ones wanted to sacrifice themselves for the greater good, and we now have happier plants, one per crate, with most of the dying leaves picked off. I learned this earlier on with the Boston Marrow squash in crates (one per crate works; any more than one and both plants droop). I just had hoped the acorn squash could handle the crowding due to smaller fruits, but it seems not. I told them they have this great new trellis, so plenty of reason to recover! At the very least, the Amish Paste tomatoes look happier than in their massively root bound little pots. 🙂

Acorn Squash in crates with Amish Paste tomatoes in between

Acorn Squash in crates with Amish Paste tomatoes in between

Pride of Wisconsin cantaloupe with an heirloom tomatillo "rescue" from Whole Foods.

Pride of Wisconsin cantaloupe with an heirloom tomatillo “rescue” from Whole Foods.

Boston Marrow squash with the new trellis and a Yellow German tomato "rescue" from Whole Foods. You can see the cantaloupe to the right and the lone Jubilee watermelon crate to the left, plus the main gardens out back.

Boston Marrow squash with the new trellis and a Yellow German tomato “rescue” from Whole Foods. You can see the cantaloupe to the right and the lone Jubilee watermelon crate to the left, plus the main gardens out back.

The front herb garden is flourishing, too, but I’ll save those photos for another day. This weekend involves planting several more blackberry and raspberry bushes out back, too. That back corner is quite the “Halt! Who goes there?!” spot: poison ivy, thorny blackberries and raspberries, and nettles. I suspect we won’t have too many people cutting through the opening in the fence. 😉

On the south side of the house, we’ve finally got some morning glories winding up the fence and our butterfly window trellises. No blooms yet, but when those purple blossoms show themselves, we’ll have a little reminder of Madison. Last Fall, I saved the seeds from our glorious side step display just so we could have them here.

Happy Summer!

Eco-Watering, Faery Guardians and Plant Wisdom

Well, it’s July 1, which has, since 2010, been celebrated by me as the official “Laura Bruno Independence Day.” What better way to acknowledge the day than by recognizing that deep, abiding connection to Mother Earth, who provides whatever we need if we honor her and have eyes to see: hence another gardening update. (Also, Happy Canada Day to all my Canadian friends and readers!)

Garden July 1, 2012

I have learned so much just by watching plants. Take, for example, my various kale species, which I grew from seed indoors. They had spindly stems when I transplanted them outdoors, and I watched for weeks as they did flip flops every day. At first, I tried to “help” them by straightening them out, encouraging them to find what I considered a “better” angle for growth. Haha, silly me! I finally left them alone to do their flip flop, figuring if they were all doing it, they must have some kind of method to their madness.

Sure enough, they created firm bases from which to grow. The spindly stems have now grown strong, if crooked, responding to their environment in such a way that they have more solid grounding than straight growth would ever have afforded. There’s a lesson in there for those of us who find ourselves inexplicably led down seemingly opposite or unrelated paths for awhile. Follow that intuition as it creates a solid base from which to flourish!

Plants are smart. My cucumbers were planted too far away from the tomato cage and fence setup, but I worried about moving the cage in case it disturbed their roots. Then one day, I looked, and the bigger cucumber plant had miraculously centered itself directly inside the cage. What’s more, someone or something helped manifest even more support. I got the idea that this tomato cage wasn’t really a trellis and might not do the trick. Yesterday, I intended to walk to the co-op to get a green juice, but something told me to walk down a different road. Lo and behold, a garage sale sign! “Maybe I’ll find a cucumber trellis,” I thought. Well, I found a lovely bauble to go with the others I’d hung to appease the faeries watching over my garden:

Garden Baubles for Faeries

Not seeing a cucumber trellis, but sensing one there, I finally asked. The woman tending the garage sale explained that it was not her sale, so she didn’t know. She asked me how large a trellis I needed. “Not large, I guess. I just need to help the one plant over to my steps or to the fence.” “How ’bout this?” asked the woman. She removed several items from a display rack, and sure enough, that would do the trick. I returned home and thought, “String. I need some string for that tomato cage. Where am I going to manifest my string?” Forgetting about that, I decided to plant some lemon balm and noticed a container that had been bugging me all week because its decorative string had begun to unravel. I started trying to replace the string and suddenly, silly me, I realized what had happened. I strung the string on the tomato cage turned cucumber trellis:

Smart Cucumbers and Magic String

In the photo, you can see how the larger cuke has situated itself right inside the cage, and how the white display rack/sorter shelf perfectly fills the gap between cucumber and fence. I’m still shaking my head over that one, in addition to realizing the night before that those faeries wanted more bling in the garden. I had already hung the little peace bauble, as well as a tiny bejeweled Hamsa to protect my cabbage family plants from caterpillars, but the night before the garage sale-string adventure, I had gotten the clear message that garden faeries wanted at least one more shiny thing. As a little reward for finding the bling, I also received a bottle of Dr. Bronner’s lavender hemp soap for only 75 cents. (Winks and giggles from the Universe, since I had just noted I’d need to buy more soon.)

In addition to manifesting various gardening treats and tools, I’ve found that plants really do respond to invitations. We now have tender dandelion leaves growing in our back yard garden bed, along with purslane, nettles, volunteer strawberries, some thriving parsley and other friends. David and I love, love, love purslane, and I strongly invited it to grow prolifically. Sure enough, that Omega-3 rich, lemony purslane has sprouted up in sidewalk cracks, where it’s currently thriving, as well as in the garlic “hole” of our Garden Soxx:

Volunteer Purslane

OK, I’ve shared about the faeries, plant wisdom, manifestion, and invitations, but what about the eco-watering? Wisconsin’s having what some people would call a drought. I don’t like to label things unless I want them, so let’s just call this an opportunity to recognize abundance. I’ve lived in the desert before, although I never gardened there. But my Sedona friend, Toni, does! She’s so cute, giving me weather updates and flower photos nearly every morning, and she often shares about her use of gray water.

We have a rain barrel here, but when it rarely or never rains, those barrels get low. For some reason, our barrel always has at least a little water in it, even when nowhere else gets rain. It’s like a magical cauldron or something, how that rain barrel keeps replenishing itself without rain. The bees and wasps love it, too. There’s a tiny leak at the bottom, and my little pollinators and predator insect friends go there to drink. I love the rain barrel, but this week it struck me just how much water we can waste without even thinking of it. Years of desert living taught me not to flush the toilet after every single pee, but when you live in massive humidity, you can sometimes forget how dry it really gets. You can forget to honor a precious resource.

This week, David and I put buckets in our sink and shower, collecting water from showers and hand/dish washings. I know people in Santa Fe who do this regularly, but in humid Madison, I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve let gallons of perfectly good water go down the drain. No more! We’re reusing our gray water for flowers and thirsty non-edibles. Yes, it’s kind of a pain in the neck (sometimes literally) to bring the buckets outside, but whenever I do so, I make an offering back to the Earth. She has responded with joy and sighs of relief. I also offer all smoothie and kefir rinse water to my plants, as these are so full of nutrients and/or rich organisms to help the soil.

Speaking of offerings, I wasn’t sure about sharing this next part, but it really does work well. I read last year in Mother Earth News that the best all around fertilizer for plants is a mixture of 1 part pee to 20 parts water. Minimum dilution ratio is 1:5, depending on plants’ nitrogen needs, and you can use anything from 1:5, 1:10 or 1:20 depending on frequency and soil. The 1:20 ratio is supposedly the best combo of the main macronutrients Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium (NPK). Other plant friendly additions include kelp, nettle infusion leftovers blended with water, chaga leftovers blended with water, worm tea or worm castings, as well as the coffee grounds I get each week from our local co-op.

When I first heard about the pee fertilizer, I thought, “Ew, gross!” and a lot of people still give me that look if I ever mention it. Watching how my plants respond to the dilution, though, I’ve come to view it as one of the deepest, most intimate ways I can give back to the Earth and plants that feed me. The day after I water the roots with my own urine mixed with water, I swear my plants have grown 30% larger overnight. The flowering ones put out new buds, and the greens seem to stretch themselves proudly to the sky. So yeah, maybe I’ve gone “off with the faeries” to Hippieville, but it saves a many gallon flush and makes my plants rejoice.

Our little side garden plot is so alive with bees, herbs, wasps, flowers, and faeries that it has become my favorite spot to sit and read. I’ve got chamomile sun tea “brewing” now, and the Tupsy Turvy tomato plants are growing well. I’m mid-process of manifesting some free lavender cuttings, and my newly planted lemon balm seeds will either grow this time, or the lemon balm cuttings will present themselves, too. I love our magical little garden, perhaps even more because of its challenging location and rental/weather restrictions. Thanks for sharing the journey with me! May we all flourish with our loving Earth.