Posts Tagged ‘Vertical Gardening’

Seen Today in the Garden

The fairy tale pumpkins are just starting to grow, so imagine my surprise when my eyes fell upon this huge green striped cushaw squash!

green striped cushaw

I thought I’d show some different perspectives today, since I usually shoot from the front of the yard, facing back. Here’s the view through the back gate, in an archway of poke:

through the back gate

The back alley is also starting to fill in, although next year, the forsythias will be more than little twigs. Wildflowers, day lilies, and Maximiliam sunflowers bring welcome touches of color to an otherwise weedy spot. I’ve got cold hardy gladiolus and hollyhocks on the perpendicular side of the garage, facing the apartment’s parking lot.

back alley

I almost never take photos of the ugly view across the street, but these sunflowers have so kindly faced their most beautiful blooms at the best angle to distract from the ugliest view, while I await the growth of my serviceberry and rose hedges up front to shield this yuck. Vertical gardening projects abound in this yard, buffering views on three of four sides, but the front has resulted in a riot of color. The yarden has grown so lush that it actually feels like a complete non-sequitur to look from one side of the street to the other:

sunnies

Along with sunnies, we have plenty of bunnies, pictured here with black raspberries, patty pan squash, tomatoes, calendula and borage:

bunnies

The area behind our garage (the back garage by the alley actually belongs to our landlord) has turned into quite the companion planting party, with even an animal transplanted watermelon groundcover twining around a currant bush:

backyard

The backyard beds still look lush from behind. Sometime, we’ll have a gazillion parsnips since I let this one go to seed. I can’t bring myself to cut it down, since it looks like a tree and has cucumbers and pumpkin twined all around it.

back beds

The cardoon looks just as impressive as my friend Patricia promised me it would — very popular with the bees, too!

cardoon

These beds have overflowed, and you can’t even see the sweet potato vines starting to climb the trellis behind the deadheaded elecampane:

side backyard

Our Guarden Bed’s cold frame support needs repair before the other two hinge points break. I’ve got the parts, just haven’t had the time yet with David to implement the switch. Meanwhile, garlic chives have flowered, and a slow start “zinnia” turned into a sunflower, joining masses of cucumbers and fairy tale pumpkins.

Guarden bed and garlic chives

That’s all the photos for now. I was outside observing the yard next door while Gardener’s Supply has their Summer Clearance sale happening, just in case I need, you know, more garden stuff. 😉 Yesterday, I picked up an inspiring copy of “Foodscaping,” by Charlie Nardozzi, and I can’t wait to get that yard going!

Garden Update ~ Sunflowers, Sun Oven Brownies, and Sunny, Oh, My!

OK, let’s get this out of the way first: despite all the lovely photos I’m about to share, the coolest thing to come out of the yard this past week was … Sun Oven brownies! Gluten-free vegan, moist, filled with chia and black bean goodness, melt in your mouth delicious Sun Oven brownies, to be more specific.

sun oven brownies

Even better? I made them for our friend Sunny’s (of Sunny’s Korean Restaurant in Mishawaka) Fourth of July potluck, which was an amazing mix of people Sunny has met over the years, mostly through her restaurant. We love her, and apparently, a ton of other people feel exactly the same way. She has possibly moved more concrete and rocks by herself than I have in order to create a backyard garden sanctuary, but she’s got chickens, so she wins the prize. Or at least some eggs. 🙂 Anyway, we had a great time, and the brownies were a hit. They tasted way better than when I baked them indoors for the Faery Workshop. Note to self: the Sun Oven makes everything better!

Speaking of sun, today, our first sunflower of the year opened:

It's a little guy, only 2.5 feet tall right now.

It’s a little guy, only 2.5 feet tall right now.

Things are blooming like crazy:

coneflowers, liatris, cardoon, and yarrow

coneflowers, liatris, cardoon, and yarrow

Carrots gone wild. The level of “good bug” activity in this bed alone is off the charts. It’s like mini-Manhattan for umbrel lovers.

borage and black eyed Susans next to the elecampane I needed to tie to a trellis because it kept flopping its six foot tall self over the Susan's

borage and black eyed Susans next to the elecampane I needed to tie to a trellis because it kept flopping its six foot tall self over the Susan’s

hollyhocks and lilies still going strong

hollyhocks and lilies still going strong

zinnias started flowering last week, but the red ones just came out -- shown here rhubarb, parsley, tomato, collards and calendula

zinnias started flowering last week, but the red ones just came out — shown here rhubarb, parsley, tomato, collards and calendula

another zinnia getting cozy with kale, nastrutiums, borage, bell peppers, beets and basil

another zinnia getting cozy with kale, nastrutiums, borage, bell peppers, beets and basil

brassicas loving the bed now almost cleared of the earlier pea and fava bean cover crop

brassicas loving the bed now almost cleared of the earlier pea and fava bean cover crop

cukes going up AND down the trellis

cukes going up AND down the trellis

our first cucumber from a few days ago, pictured with lacinato kale, cilantro and peas. peas, peas, peas ... tasty, but tedious!

our first cucumber from a few days ago, pictured with lacinato kale, cilantro and peas. peas, peas, peas … tasty, but tedious!

potatoes still looking good in their bags -- one of this year's experiments

potatoes still looking good in their bags — one of this year’s experiments

south side of that same trellis

south side of that same trellis

basil, peppermint, and soaker hoses, because it finally stopped raining long enough to need to install such things

basil, peppermint, and soaker hoses, because it finally stopped raining long enough to need to install such things

fairy tale pumpkin going gangbusters

fairy tale pumpkin going gangbusters

Nasturtiums, malabar spinach and cushaw squash race to the trellis. Who will win?! Looks like the cushaw's bowing over and out (of the bed)

Nasturtiums, malabar spinach and cushaw squash race to the trellis. Who will win?! Looks like the cushaw’s bowing over and out (of the bed)

The front yard's so lush now. This view's from the driveway.

The front yard’s so lush now. This view’s from the driveway.

Stay tuned for a very exciting announcement regarding the blue house. More to come after my PA trip.

Cheers and happy harvesting!

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!

Garden Update: Trellises, Flowers and Stacking Functions

backdoor gardening

Busy days here at Faery-Hof! This week focused on various trellising projects and acquiring an “instant” garden through my friend Kimber’s thinnings and castoffs. Yesterday, I got out some zip ties and quickly put together what I want to call a wabi sabi trellis for Malabar spinach, which will hide the apartment complex’s parking lot and afford us some backyard privacy:

trellis

The Malabar spinach supposedly grows fast, but it still has a ways to go before reaching the trellis:

malabar spinach

Also yesterday, Kimber — who is my garden’s favorite person this week — helped me re-trellis a grape vine that had begun to invade my peas:

grapes and peas

You can see the new trellis towards the right of the following photo, and the companion grape vine on the wooden fence. They haven’t produced grapes yet, but they seem happy, so we let them grow.

back gardens

I also needed to trellis one of my asparagus plants, which has grown taller than me! I got to practice a bean teepee style with bamboo poles:

asparagus

Up front, we’ve got repurposed tomato cages holding up newly thinned irises, also from Kimber. She recommended I cut them all back before planting, but I couldn’t resist instant flowers. Our next door neighbor was so funny last night, asking with wide eyes if I had “just planted those or did they grow that fast overnight because of your recent fish treatment?” (Kimber arranged for our yards to have a very special treatment normally reserved for farms, and I had warned our neighbors that it would stink for a day or so. It does! Still. He thought it smelled “like the Lake.”) Anyway, the neighbors keep track of the garden now, and his wide eyed question still makes me giggle. Next year, they won’t have tomato cages, but you plant irises shallowly, and they couldn’t hold their own weight without the cages.

irises

Another cool thing that came out of that conversation is that our neighbors offered to compost their food for use in the garden. He said they know nothing about composting, so they would like a list. Since they don’t eat exclusively organic food, I explained that I would probably build them a separate bin that I can use to compost weeds and to put the compost on flower beds. They’re excited to have some place to put food waste, since it forms the bulk of their trash. This really makes me smile, because a) I never have enough compost and b) it’s so cool that our neighbors are waking up to the world of compost! I gave them a small tomato plant for a porch garden this year, and I saw they had purchased some marigolds, too. The mom next door also, apparently, takes photos of our flowers and brings them in to show people at work.

I love how this garden — for all its insane amounts of work right now — is bringing neighbors together and keeping things out of the landfill. A neighbor up the street now plans to add wood mulch to a bed outside his house, and our wood mulch guy now has nine people on the delivery circuit for the mulch he used to need to pay to dump.

Finishing up the Kimber tribute from my garden, this sedum donation, divided into three, has finally begun to recover from transplant shock. I’ve now got three different types of sedum in the front yard and look forward to their fun forms. One of the sedums, not the one pictured below, will also serve as ground cover in the area killed off by a year of Mount Mulchmore.

sedum

In this front bed photo, you can see some recent perennials (Veronica) and various annuals procured on a Menard’s run with my friend Leah and her handy, dandy truck, which also hauled more compost (see why I am so happy about the neighbors?!), potting soil, and concrete slabs for our rain barrels. If you look closely, you can also see that our tiny lilac actually has a few blooms:

front bed

At the far north end of the front beds, I have been getting the greatest kick out of watching the long row of sunflowers follow the sun each day. This photo only shows about 1/3 of the length of that row:

sunnies

The rose bush I planted in honor of Gramma Irene is blooming like crazy:

rose bush

When I was growing up, we had rhododendrons in our front yard, and they would always bloom on my birthday. Our landlord planted this one right before we moved in, and sure enough, the first buds began to open on the eve of my birthday. Today they look even more lovely:

rhododendron

Despite having all this growing space out front, I’m so glad I got a Garden Tower this year. Wood mulch robs nitrogen the first year, so there’s a noticeable difference in growth rate between greens planted out front and greens in the Garden Tower. As long as I have greens, melons and flowers, I don’t care which arrangement they come from, but I would be freaking out if the slow growth up front was all we had to look forward to this year. Look at how lush the Garden Tower plants already are!

Garden Tower growing well

In the backyard, I’ve really been stacking functions — sunflowers and trellises for food and privacy on both sides of the yard. I also have this 24 foot long trellis set up with mulch, cardboard, concrete block “planters,” and companion plants. (We still need to add the other two 8 foot long trellises.)

long trellis

It’s not the prettiest setup, but it will do several things at once:

1) Trellis tomatoes, watermelons, gourds and pumpkins

2) The red plastic mulch will keep moisture in, prevent weeds growing through the mulch, heat up the layers of leaf and wood mulch, newspaper and coffee underneath, and reflect a more productive spectrum of light back onto the tomatoes and curcubits for higher fruiting rates

3) The cardboard shuts out light to weeds in front of the plastic mulch, giving the plants a better competitive edge, as well as moist soil in front of the mulched beds, in case those get dry. It will eventually form the first layer of a lasagna garden bed I’ll make this fall.

4) The concrete blocks and plant pots hold down the cardboard, while also giving space for companion plantings of marigolds, calendula, borage, mint and bee balm. I lost all my squash to vine borers last year, so this year I am determined to attract the right predators and repel the damaging pests. At season’s end, I will dump the spent soil into the lasagna beds and use the concrete blocks to hold tarps around our cold frame for added protection. Then, next year, I’ll probably cardboard another area of “lawn,” since this area will be ready for more regular gardening.

I’ve also enjoyed stacked functions of perennial edible beauty, in particular, the sea kale:

flowering sea kale

Sea kale is so pretty and so tasty that I bought another two starts for the center front bed. Next year they’ll provide some gorgeous green and white flowers before many other plants get going. It takes awhile for sea kale to adjust to transplant, but imho, it’s well worth the wait! Here it is again next to the pretty fava bean plants and Egyptian walking onions:

Fava's sea kale, onions

I’ve let the Red Russian Kale and spinach go to seed, too, so I can collect seed for next year, plus enjoy their beauty now. This bed will get cleared out very soon, so I can plant lima beans to regenerate the soil before another round of heavy feeding brassica’s in late summer/fall/winter:

kale and spinach to seed

We’ll finish up today with yarrow and clover, over and over. 🙂 Actually, this grouping happened spontaneously, and I’d love to recreate it all over the yard! Our yarrow hasn’t shown color yet, but the blooms are a bright magenta, which goes so well with the red clover blossoms. This combo nourishes the soil, provides a spot of beauty, and attracts all sorts of beneficial bugs. Gotta love it!

yarrow and clover

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!

Urban Homesteading and Faery Gardening

For many of us, this last third of 2012 marks a change in direction, and for some, the coming together of long held and carefully nurtured dreams.

In keeping with the change in seasons, David and I have some big shifts in store. He has accepted American Airlines’ “Early Out” package, and we will soon relocate to Goshen, Indiana — the adorable, artsy, eco-friendly, service-oriented town where his parents live. They’re both in their eighties, and we all realized that we could significantly improve their quality of life (and ours) by “right-sizing” and moving within walking distance of them.

This past week, we picked up keys to our new little eco-haven. It’s actually a new/old eco-haven — an older property taken down to the studs and refurbished with energy efficiency in mind. We’ve been given carte blanche to turn the wild yard into a permaculture and gardening spot with beauty, sustainability and possibly even our own backyard labyrinth. Our front porch can double as a coldframe/winter cold crop greenhouse, and we’ve got expansive Southern windows with deep sills for my indoor herb garden. Those who know how much David and I love wild food foraging and caring for the Earth will realize what a dream come true this living arrangement is — particularly since it involved zero looking on our part. The land and home synchronously came to us as a near exact match to the wish-list on my iPhone.

Our lease in Madison ends on November 30, and we have a two month overlap of leases for our relocation. We do intend to continue offering Raph events in the Dousman area; however, after this month, those Dousman events will not happen again until 2013. Depending on David’s new work schedule, the Dousman events will probably occur bi-monthly or quarterly. The Madison events have had such inconsistent turnout that we will focus on Dousman as our WI locale for Raph events, although we do plan to visit friends and family in Madison from time to time. We’ve also both got many connections in the Chicago area, so Chicago events may begin happening in 2013. Stay tuned on that …

I’m just so excited about the possibilities! Even though we have much more room at this new spot, I intend to utilize all I’ve learned about gardening “up” and growing in small spaces. That way we can maximize yield. We’ll also be planting tons of medicinal wildflowers and some fruit trees and bushes, combining beauty with powerful productivity. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the magickal properties of plants and will incorporate some faery attracting and protective non-edibles around entrances and the perimeter. We already have loads and loads of wild violets and, as shown above, wild petunias that self-seeded in the formerly overgrown yard. Not much grass in sight: our ground cover includes purslane, dandelion greens, chicory and plantain. Salad right out the door! Even more than the free, no work greens, we’re excited about becoming stewards of this land — loving it and working with it to express Earth’s bounty.

As 2012 continues to accelerate, I know many of you also face relocation, career and/or significant relationship changes. Please know that you are not alone in this process! I have clients all over the world, and so many people find their lives imminently unrecognizable. Change seems like the tall order of the day. Whatever your own deepest longings, visualize, imagine and intend well: wonderful changes await those who invite and receive them.

Peace!

Growing Up

In so many ways, humanity is being asked to grow up right now: take those heads out of the sand, look around, and decide what you’d love to see in your world. Then plant it, water it, nourish it, and watch that reality grow as you do. I see so many parallels in my private sessions and classes with people, and in the microcosm of my side and backyard gardens. One parallel I’d love to address today is the concept of limitation — looking around at your life, your yard, your “circumstances,” your world … and giving up before you start. Common excuses include:

“I don’t have enough space/time/light to get started.”

“I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“What if I fail?”

“It’s too much work.”

“I’d love to have more sovereignty over my life/food/career/mind, but what can you do? It is what it is.”

To which I say, “Grow up.” In the nicest possible ways, each and every one of us needs to step into our own natural creativity, sovereignty, community and wisdom. If we don’t see the space (whether literal or figurative), we do have the power and the choice to clear things away, to grow in unusual and unexpected directions, and flourish under any and all supposed restrictions. Today I’m posting a couple videos from others and some photos from my own very small space, vertically efficient garden. Please take whatever inspiration you can glean on whatever level, whether related to gardening of the soil or soul.

In this first video, we see an urban garden with loads of cabbage and chard serving as edible front yard ornamentals. Many people let city regulations stop them from using sunny front lawns to grow food. With the right selections, you can create beauty and food. The book “The Edible Front Yard” offers lots of guidelines, from simple to extravagantly gorgeous. The Healthy Irishman in this video interviews his neighbor about her growing strategies, and at the end you can hear how her choices impact her neighborhood of cooks.

This next video shows John Kohler’s front yard garden. When I lived in Petaluma and Santa Rosa, CA, I knew John. I have to say, his garden has grown. LOL!! Majorly. John’s a hardcore gardener and avid raw foodist. He’s also very frugal and shares many tips in this video about how to save money while building raised beds. He also covers drip irrigation to water at the roots of the plant, allowing him to maintain a busy travel schedule while saving water, too. He also covers spacing for maximum harvests. John uses rock dust as a fertilizer, and I have to say his produce was some of the sweetest, tastiest stuff I’ve ever tasted. Even if you’re not intending anything as major as John’s front yard farm, you can learn a lot from his vast gardening knowledge:

The following images are from our own side garden, which is extremely narrow and runs along the chain link fence between us and our neighbor.

Cucumbers growing up the fence behind our side steps

Cucumbers growing up the fence, behind our recycling and garbage cans

Topsy Turvy Tomatoes, morning glory and cucumber vines

I had been fighting the morning glories, trying to maintain space for our cucumbers, until the faeries just about went on strike. “Stop pulling out the morning glories!” I tried to explain that I had so little growing space that I wanted to save room for “edibles” or “plants I can use.” Well, those faeries sure showed me. I’ve been having trouble sleeping with all the solar flares, so I felt led to buy some Tulsi Sleep tea at Whole Foods. I didn’t look at the ingredients until I got home. Among them is “Dwarf Morning Glory (whole plant).” The next day, David surprised me with some flower faery books from the library. I opened to the Morning Glory, which “keeps away evil faeries at night.” OK, message received! The cukes and Morning Glory have made their peace, and I’ve let other — even non-edible –wildflowers grow amongst the edibles. Why? Because the faeries like them. Truth be told, so do I, and that side garden is a haven for bees, too.

Garden July 26, 2012

Believe it or not, we had a massive hail and rain storm last night, so this lush garden above was just been heavily pruned by me before photographing it. I harvested greens for a huge green smoothie this morning, plus enough greens for a large salad for lunch. I also cut some renegade tomatillo “limbs” that had become light hogs over the rest of the plants. I also used more string as support to lift the tomatillo and tomato plant offshoots off the ground. I learned last year that tomato leaves on the ground are an invitation for blight, a fungal disease that your plants really don’t want! Lifting them encourages healthier growth.

I initially worried about how much our garden has inserted itself beyond the fence. Nature uses fences as support rather than aggressive dividers — something we might do well to remember for ourselves! But I don’t like when people encroach on other people’s space/energy without asking, so I had been feeling a bit hypocritical blasting over and through the fence into our neighbor’s yard. Anyway, last week, I ran into our very busy neighbor, Lisa, and I apologized for the crazy growth into her yard. She smiled and laughed, then asked what I was growing. I then asked permission to harvest from her side of the fence if I couldn’t reach fruits from our side. I didn’t want to presume I could just enter her yard unannounced, and she’s rarely home, so I didn’t want to wait until I might happen to see her if I needed to harvest something. To my surprise, she was thrilled that I was growing food so close to her home. She mentioned her own not-so-green thumb and thought she might have just “manifested a gardening neighbor instead.” I offered her some of our harvest, and she thanked me for that. She would have let us harvest anyway, but it was a nice touch.

Two days later, I saw her carrying potted plants into her garage. I yelled over, “Wow! Did you decide to grow things after all?” She explained that she had been so inspired by my garden and comments about how grounded I feel tending plants that she went out and bought some potted herbs for herself. She didn’t know how to grow herbs anymore than she had known how to grow tomatoes when they failed a few years earlier. I, on the other hand, grow herbs year round, indoors and out. She walked over to our side of the fence to see our basil, sage, parsley, oregano and other herbs and to get some tips for indoor potting soil and growing. I don’t know why, but it made me so happy that Lisa, our non-growing neighbor, suddenly felt the urge to bring some plants into her home. I’m sure the basil and other herbs will love her southern window sills.

All of which is to say … that so many of our limitations really do exist only in our imaginations. If we can express our desires, share our visions and ask for permission before trouncing on anyone else’s space, sometimes those discussions lead to surprising and wonderful places. Because of my garden, I now know that my busy neighbor isn’t just a schoolteacher, but also a passionate artist whose private business is flourishing. She now knows I stick my hands in the dirt to ground myself from all the intuitive work I do. She knows I talk to faeries and give them bling in exchange for them helping tend my trickier plants. I know she’s looking forward to fresh produce “magically” appearing on her doorstep. She now knows that herbs are the easiest things to grow — almost like weeds. The biggest problem she’d likely have would be from over-watering or over-care. That drew a big smile from Lisa!

A couple weeks ago, I had asked the Universe to help me get to know my neighbors better than just a wave. In this past week, all connected to gardening, I’ve gotten to know an intriguing but busy neighbor on one side, called a rain storm in with a neighbor on the other side, discovered our across-the-street neighbors have the equivalent of a small farm tucked away in their backyard, and met several other neighborhood friends of friends. In perfect balance, our neighbors on the other side, have a prolific vine growing onto our side of the fence. I prune it back over my shady backyard garden, but in other parts I let it grow large and free. I’ve posted about hummingbirds twice recently, and this is where I see them. As I type, I can look out at the orange flowers and my friendly neighborhood hummingbirds. Life is good!