Posts Tagged ‘Wood Mulch’

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. 😉

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. 🙂

Inner City Permaculture

This is one of Starhawk’s Earth Activist Training (EAT) projects in the projects. So inspirational!

Mount Mulchmore and the Cold Frame “Skirt”

I had finally whittled down our fifth huge pile of wood chips to perhaps one or two afternoons’ work. After a long day of sessions and calls to volunteers for our local food security week events (which have turned into two weeks of events!), I walked outside to get the mail. Dale, the man building our next door neighbors’ two new porches, cracked up as he watched my jaw drop and heard a loud cry escape my throat. This is the scene that greeted me:

Mount Mulchmore: wood ships on the left, shredded leaves on the right

Mount Mulchmore: wood ships on the left, shredded leaves on the right

I really did almost break into tears right then and there, because I had completely forgotten about asking the man who maintains the apartments on the other side of us to dump a huge pile of leaves “anytime this Fall.” Ohhhhh, man! Have I mentioned I’m actually looking forward to Winter? 😉 Anyway, in sighing about this huge pile of extra work to David’s mom, she explained to me that the leaves came from their yard and to “take good care of them.” We joked about her helping me move them, but through the joking I learned that in all seriousness, the guy who maintains the apartments’ yard also maintains David’s parents’ yard, and he specially mulched them for better gardening use. Sure enough, when I returned home and mustered enough courage to inspect the leaves, they were well chopped and already clumped. Since I had just the day prior to delivery said to David, “I really need some leaves for the raised beds!” I can’t complain. “Ask and you shall receive” is seriously evident in my life these days. Almost immediately so.

Yesterday, the “Bed Bed” (a repurposed Sleep Number bed frame) got a couple inches of compost and several inches of leaves:

mulched bed bed

Once I realized that I could use whatever leaves I want now and then bag them up for another round in Spring, I relaxed about the work. It’s windy! Not the best time for figuring out where to put all these leaves. Plus, I have a wood mulch clearance deadline of early next week, so this will work out just fine. Rotted leaves made excellent mulch this Spring, keeping our beds moist and dandelion-free. The plants really love all the nutrients from the leaves as they begin to break down. While cleaning up the Bed Bed, I harvested this giant green onion I had replanted from the store this Summer:

Giant Green Onion and Messa Greens

We had the white part of the onion last night in a homemade spaghetti sauce David made from some Farmers Market peppers, homegrown tomatoes (fresh, dehydrated, frozen puree with oregano), and co-op mushrooms, served over peeled zucchini “fettucini.” Um, wow! David makes the best sauce and soups! (I’m sure all the fresh, local, organic produce doesn’t hurt, either.)

spaghetti

Meanwhile, back in the yard, David was also the master engineer for errant, flying cold frames. Ours is now expertly anchored on all four corners, plus it has a 4-tarp “skirt” to block those nasty drafts that can damage plants even more than snow or frost. Did you know that snow is actually an effective winter mulch for cold hardy plants? “Four-Season Harvest” by Eliot Coleman will tell you all about that and more. Anyway, it’s not the prettiest thing we’ve ever seen, but it has stayed in place despite our crazy Northern Indiana gusts:

Cold frame skirt

In the back, you can see a repurposed sheer shower curtain protecting my tree collards until I figure out what to do with them. They were some of our favorite eating this year, but they’re not hardy in Zone 5b unless you can get them buried and majorly mulched. Ours haven’t re-rooted yet, so I’m a bit nervous to smother them. Mr. Gnome kindly oversees the whole shower curtain operation, carrying fire wood just in case those plants need a bit of extra warmth:

Mr. Gnome

Our rosemary also got “fleeced” last night, and it will continue to do so until Yours Truly gets motivated enough to dig it up and pot it inside for the Winter. Poor, non-cold-hardy rosemary. If only you weren’t so pretty and delicious smelling, you wouldn’t need to look so silly:

Rosemary fleece

In the background — above — you can see another raised bed happily leaf mulched. Look at those calendula go!

Calendula flowers, ruby chard, French sorrel, parsley, oregano and kale ... one diverse, happy family

Calendula flowers, ruby chard, French sorrel, parsley, oregano and kale … one diverse, happy family

Inside, I’ve got tarragon and chocolate mint drying alongside a Lone Alaskan Pea Pod! (I planted those too late in the season, in a spot too shaded by my crazy huge lemongrass plant, and I’m sorry to say, I’ve completely neglected watering them for weeks. That we have any peas is a miracle. We have more growing, but I doubt they’ll handle this week’s cold temps.)

Chocolate Mint, Tarragon and the Lone Alaskan Pea

According Eliot Coleman, fresh peas from the garden are enough reason in and of themselves to justify an entire season of gardening. I guess we’ll see about that tonight! Acorn squash, the Lone Alaskan Pea Pod, and a whole messa greens. Mmmmmmm, can’t wait. I do love fresh food and pretty flowers. LOL, can you tell?

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. 😉