I finally have a garden space that allows me to experiment.
For me experiment = play = happy me + hopefully reproducible results that can lead to happy others too.
The secret of this garden — and by that I do not mean the secret to my garden’s SUCCESS (which hasn’t happened yet), but the secret to its focus (before food and medicinals, fibers and flowers) — is amazing SOIL. Everything I am going to do will center on that.
I am completely inspired by the thought that I might be able to assist in turning a plot of compacted, suburban fill (pretending to be topsoil) into a water-holding, micro-organism-filled, nutrient-cycling network of a landscape.
If that weren’t amazing enough – and really, that IS a pretty awesome thing to aspire to all by itself – but if it weren’t amazing enough, I am so excited to cultivate that soil (by which I mean, culture it, not dig it up) because of how it will support communities of plants! And the plants will benefit the soil – through their relationships with soil organisms and by the biomass they accumulate and add to it.
I have all sorts of strange constraints to deal with in the planting of our garden. Each year at least half the year is hot and dry – not a drop of rain in sight and hardly a cloud. Plants can struggle with too much sun and our mineral-laden ground water. Then there’s the other half the year when, if we’re lucky, we get enough rain (or maybe we don’t and the plants suffer then too) but it can be cold. The soil here doesn’t drain well, so many plants are going to have to tolerate cold, wet, feet. We’ve thankfully got a great solar orientation for our yard, but we still have to deal with fence and building shadows – so some plants will have to do well with almost no sun in the winter. This isn’t a problem if you plant deciduous things but our warmer winter days allow for other-than-northern-region deciduous plants.
Ha ha, my inner plant geek is trying to take over this post! It wants to talk to you about California natives and perennial productivity… but I’ll stop there, as best I can and get to the next point I wanted to make.
Our garden, has another secret focus – bees! Until I grow the soil, I can’t plant the plants that will flower and produce ample, year round forage for bees, but as I select the plants and figure out which grow best where, I’ll be having exactly that in mind.
I cannot wait to have bees living here – not because of their honey – but because of THEM! I think they’re fantastic. If they do really well and have honey to share, that’ll be fine, too, but I just want to create a haven for them. It turns out that urban and suburban beekeepers are doing just that, creating bee-safe (and bee-saving) environments. Often there is more for urban bees to forage and fewer toxins than are found out in the fields, farms and orchards where one traditionally finds bee hives. This makes some sense – urban and suburban gardeners are often plant and habitat focused (if they’re not just planting the typical summer veggies). If they or their lawn-focused neighbors can be convinced to limit pesticide use, urban bees (of all species, including the natives) can flourish.
And I can’t wait to see the transformation from this
into something more closely resembling this
soil image from http://howto-garden.com.au/rejuvenate-your-garden/the-soil/
the picture of the cob studio at Permaculture Institute of Northern California is from the Regenerative Design website
and the pollinator-friendly garden photo is from the website of permaculture.org.