Garden Insights for 2010

My garden is a small, tree-circled zone, about 3/4 acre altogether, but really providing  less than 1000 square feet of sunny planting space. Dominant trees include Casuarina, Sycamore, Oak, Pine, Poplar and Privot.  Surrounding this is quite vast acreage on 3 sides that are alternatively planted to row crops. Over the past 4 years the line-up has consisted primarily of Tomato, Safflower, Wheat, Oats, Sunflower and Corn.

Humbling Revelations

Making or acquiring sufficient compost to overcome the incredibly opportunistic roots of Casuarina trees would have made a big difference, but was beyond my capacity.  Raised beds with root resistant barrier cloth at the bottom is probably the best approach for vegetable production in the small sunny spot available.  Though I did not muster the resources for that envisioned project, I still managed to produce some tomatoes, okra, peppers, peas and plenty of swiss chard, kale and mustard greens.

Summary Thoughts

1.  Ground squirrels, gophers and moles, turkeys, deer and coyotes can seriously and negatively affect plant growth and harvest potential.  Even our own pets weigh in on plant selection; changing and adding pathways, increasing the size of holes, etc.  Work around by increasing the number of plantings and accepting a higher level of ambiguity and uncertainty.  Try out tough, shade tolerant, edible perrenials like currants or gooseberry to create vertical growth that is easier to protect. Fence and discourage predators whenever practical.

2.  Cleavers (Galium ssp).is considered by many to be a ‘weed’, however in my garden this spring and summer, cleavers growing up with the unruly spearmint and Passiflora on the east side of the house served as a welcome helper.  As an alternative to harsh trimming I decided to use the cleavers to ‘clasp’ the spearmint in stepping stone areas where I didn’t want them to grow.  It works like velcro, sticking to itself nicely, and will present some semblance of order if you’re willing to take the time to do a little plant weaving.  http://www.plantsystematics.org/imgs/dws/r/Rubiaceae_Galium_odoratum_12598.html

3.  Direct seeded wildflower blends are great to try out for difficult areas.  ‘Weeds’ are sometimes actually under-apreciated allies for health.  From a design point of view, they can help you to balance a garden’s low maintenance objectives with productivity and beauty.  Try planting wildflowers to attract wildlife and provide seasonal color, then harvest your own herbal medicinals, such as Saint John’s Wort, Evening Primrose and Burdock.

4.  You can never make too much compost.  Vermicomposting is worth a go.   http://www.redwormcomposting.com/ http://www.worms.com/worm-factory.html

5.  Always look for opportunities to plant more trees, especially food producing ones.  Don’t forget edible espaliers, hedges and windrows,and wildly productive ‘freelance’ plantings that defy the odds.  Support regional and activist movements to restore forests and orchards and protect water supplies.  http://www.treesforlife.org.uk/

6.  Trees can grow into a house: http://www.urbangardensweb.com/2009/07/23/how-to-grow-your-own-living-house/

7.  Trees can grow into furniture. and so much more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tree_shaping

8.  Patenting ‘Life’ creates problems.  Seed saving is a mainstay of  ‘Food Democracy.’  Safety and ethics of GMO derived food, drug and pesticide products is in question.  If you are open to considering alternative paradigms, please check out: http://onthecommons.org/art-and-practice-common-ground

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