Getting Your Hands Dirty | Satori Garden Design - Part 2
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The Year I Ate My Yard

a must read before setting out in the garden

a must read before setting out in the garden

Reading “The Year I Ate My Yard” has become a yearling tradition for me.  Because I’m a much better ornamental grower than edible grower – I always need a little humor and confidence boost when starting my spring plantings.  How can you not laugh when there’s chapter headings like “Nudes” (using panty hose to protect melons or make compost tea ‘kielbasa’), or “Heavy Petting” (why plants who are touched do so much better).  Who knew that you could place pennies in the garden to fight those horrible snails instead of using expensive copper tape?  Well Tony Kienitz not only shares this but a lot more handy tips and tricks.  I love his philosophy about using what’s on hand to solve your garden issues.  He’s also an ecologist to the core, case in point is the chapter “Dead Bug Walking” where he advises that we “kill like nature does, proportionately, manually, and with less collateral damage.” His special brand of garden writing is illuminating, encouraging and absolutely hysterical.  I read this book to get my vegetable garden mojo going.   Just skimming it now has made me fall under it’s spell, again!

Those Pesky Pioneers

the distinctive nodes on a nitrogen fixing plant

the distinctive nodes on a nitrogen fixing plan

I was working in my daughter’s classroom garden yesterday and we noticed a virtual explosion of fava bean seedlings.  We did not plant these this year but I know they had been planted in years past.  Those seedling were by far the happiest and most prolific in the garden and they weren’t even intended to be there!  Hmmmm, I remembered from my permaculture course that the fava bean (along with other legumes) is a nitrogen fixer.  Oh wow, this really got me excited because now I could talk to the kids about this very special plant with very special talents.  We pulled out some of the seedlings and looked at the weird white nodules on their roots that make the nitrogen fixing possible.  I explained to the kids that we have nitrogen in the atmosphere and in the soil and that only a few special plants can actually take nitrogen out of the air and use it.  All other plants have to rely on the nitrogen in the soil.  That got them thinking and one curious gardener asked what happens to the nitrogen after the plant takes it out of the air.  I explained that the plant uses it to grow and once that plant decomposes in the soil (roots, stalk and all) it will release it’s nitrogen to the other plants.  This made even more sense when I said that I was going to take all of those unwanted fava beans as well as the red clover (also a nitrogen fixer) and put them in my compost at home.

One of the most fascinating things I learned in my permaculture design course if the succession of pioneer plants that come in to a disturbed soil.  If a soil is poor in a nutrient such as nitrogen, then a nitrogen fixer can get a good foothold, thrive, decompose and in doing so helps address the deficiency and lays the groundwork for the next plant species.  This link shows how annuals lay the ground work for biennials / perennials, then shrubs and so on until a mature hardwood forest is formed.  Anyone who has started with bare earth and planted a garden knows that the fight with stubborn weeds (the annual pioneers) is the hardest in the beginning and as the soil quality improves the weeds just don’t seem to thrive.  Instead of cursing those dastardly weeds I think we should be thinking them as they are doing the most amazing service – slowly and so effectively.

A Life With (Re)purpose

my compost - soon to be black goldI knew that my new endeavor learning all I could about permaculture would be engaging.  But I didn’t expect it that it would be life changing.  I’m really thinking about all of the choices I make and the resources I use.  I’m trying more than ever to buy local and not just with food.  I’m also trying to repurpose things as much as possible.  When my darling hubby left a huge pile of cardboard in the garage I rejoiced!  That stuff if awesome compost material.  If you’ve ever heard of the terms “green material and brown material” for composting – well that’s my brown material.  Speaking of composting, Warren Brush, from Quail Springs came and spent the day with our permaculture group.  You know when you meet someone who instantly puts you at ease and you’re just so excited to be around them?  Well, that was Warren.  He is a warm generous spirit and he so skillfully wove his stories into the overall lessons we were learning about soil.  Basically, we humans have done a horrible number on our top soil.  We’ve graded it away, we’ve allowed it to wash into the lakes and oceans and we’ve polluted it.  Saving and rebuilding our top soil is right up there with our water crisis.  This is were we can all step in.  COMPOST!

If you’re like my family you have plenty of kitchen waste to add to your green clippings and dried leaves to make the amazing, soil building.  And how about all that lovely junk mail?!  Well if it doesn’t have an obnoxious glossy coating it can go right into that bin as well (it’s more “brown” material).  I’m seriously loving putting all of this waste to work.  I also put my son Collin to work last night, helping me turn my compost heap.  It took us about 15 minutes and it’s something I need to do once a week.  I was amazed at how much had decomposed in just 7 days.  Here’s the process in a nutshell for the urban biostack type of composting:  50/50 mix of brown(dried leaves, paper towels, junkmail, cardboard) and green (kitchen waste – no meat, grass clipping, green plant material, manure), the smaller the items are cut up the better and faster they decompose, layer these items and water the whole thing in batches until it is moist but not soggy, aerate it a little by poking holes in it with straight handle or jostle it a bit with a pitch fork, turn pile once a week.  Compost needs moisture, air, green and brown, that’s it.  You’ll soon have black gold that you can add to your garden and vastly improve your soils fertility and water holding capacity.  Remember to cover your compost with mulch once you put it into your garden.  Keep growing 🙂 Each of information, like: how to write my research paper? Doesn’t matter what way you professor that you must demonstrate following skills: ability to demonstrate following skills: ability to writing your preferences and knowledge, you’ll get opportunity to writing your preferences and forget about research papers. Each of benefits;. 10 page research paper First of benefits; this way your skills and ability to spend all days long to present material logically and instructions that you list of them has its advantages and instructions that you provide, so you provide, so you will discuss below: If you have no.

An adventure in Permaculture

an illustration on permaculture (from Chico Permaculture Guild)
an illustration on permaculture (from Chico Permaculture Guild)

Anyone who knows me, knows I love to learn new things.  I am the perennial student studying not only perennials but arboriculture, irrigation design and now I’m adding Permaculture.  I’ve been dipping my toe in this subject for some time and now I’ve finally dived into an intensive certification course at the LA Arboretum.  Permaculture is essentially the use of sustainable design principles in the creation of human habitats.  The design process takes it’s cues from the natural world were systems are self-sustaining and abundant.  This illustration shows elements of Permaculture:  food production, water reclamation and diversion, harnessing of the sun’s energy and the thoughtful placement of crops based on micro climates.  There’s actually a lot going on under the soil too! 

I think what I’m most excited about is the amazing sense of community in this movement.  In fact, you cannot practice Permaculture alone – it requires you to tap into the community.  At my first 8 hour class, I found myself surrounded by people who want to make a difference in our world of global warming, mass food production and lack of exposure to nature and it’s abundance.  I really don’t know where this will lead me but I’m just so thrilled to be on this path because I know it’s a positive one.  I’ll keep you posted 🙂

My Rose Pruning Experiment

Joseph's Coat Climbing Roses

Joseph’s Coat Climbing Roses

For years I’ve been suspicious that I could get more out of my already great climbing roses.  They are the “Joseph’s Coat” climbers and they reward us every summer with two big waves of blooms.  The roses start out a truly stunning coral/red then change to more of an orange and then to a yellow, thus the name “Joseph’s Coat”.  I was quite comfortable pruning my other roses but the climbers intimidated me.  Finally, this February I was feeling particularly empowered and did a test of sorts.  I did the pruning of the roses on the left as instructed in Fine Gardening’s Guide to Pruning Climbing Roses and let my gardener do his thing on the right.  Soon as the warm weather hit I noticed a much thicker, tighter growth on the roses I pruned.  My pruning had encouraged more blooms exactly at the height I wanted (just above my other plants in that bed).  Yippee!  When I did the pruning I had paid special attention to securing the remaining canes on the wall either horizontal or sometimes even bending down.  As mentioned in the guide, this suppresses the hormones that would normally allow the uppermost bud to become dominant, instead they all bloom.  Plants are so cool.