The early stages of making your garden involves some disturbance of your landscaping. What may be working may not be as abundant as it could be. Or as it will be. Gardening is an art, but soil prep a science. And as much as I would like it to be, it’s not always sexy. You have to be ready to get out there, get your hands dirty and sweat a little. After all, it’s the end result we’re going for here. And like the rest of life, the key is to relax and enjoy the process — the creative aspect of design and layout, the dirt under your fingernails, and finally reaping the rewards of your labors.
Fortunately, the first part is easy. Whether or not you enjoy it is up to you.
The first step is picking your plot.
Next opportunity you have to spend the day at home, settle in and take some time to observe your yard. Bring with you a good book and cup of coffee or tea and settle in. Relax, watch the weather. Maybe take out a pen and paper and jot down the time the sun reaches and later departs the site you have in mind.
Sunlight is crucial for optimum plant growth. Wind and rain patterns are also a strong influence. Find a sunny spot, avoid places that tend to channel strong wind. Six or more hours of direct sunlight is best. Vegetables especially require direct sun, but can handle some afternoon shade. Fruit trees are more forgiving, but you will find your fruit is sweeter if you choose a spot with afternoon sun. Your smaller fruits such as tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, melons, and corn will appreciate the late day heat as well.
Photographer: Sayward Rebhal
Oh, deary me. Goodness goodness goodness. With a late spring, a miniature monster to care for fulltime, a foggy summer punctuated by unexpected heat waves, and most recently, two consecutive weekends away . . . it feels as though the world is conspiring against my garden. Ha! It’s just a hot mess up in there these days.
Oh well, I can’t complain! In this odd year of mostly hands-off-farming, I’ve actually learned a whole lot. And I’m so excited for next year! I can’t wait to implement all my new insights, and I just can’t wait to see this baby beast all covered in dirt and sprinkling seeds as he toddles along. We’re gonna have so much fun!
So speaking of seeds, I sort of have this grand idea. I want to organize an international seed exchange for Bonzai / G Living readers! I’ve always been enamored with the idea of saving seed – there’s something so inherently whimsical about this incredibly practical act. There are tons of really great reasons to do it, not to mention the fact that it’s just plain fun. I mean, talk about recycling!
I’ve written a bit about various seed-saving techniques, but the truth is, it’s fairly universal no matter the species. First, remove the plant part that holds the seeds. If it’s a pod or a flower, allow it to dry completely and then liberate the seeds. If it’s a fruit like a tomato or gourd, simply excavate the seeds and then allow them to dry out. Either way, collect your fully-dried seeds and label them clearly, storing in an airtight container (old spice jars work great). Easy as pie!
Published on June 9, 2010
Section Gardening Organically
When I was in my early twenties, I live in a small village in England called Fairford. Life in the English country side was a magical experience for me. You see, I grew up in the dry boring suburbs of San Antonio Texas. One generic stick box house after the next. My life completely revolving around the maze of hot asphalt roads and shopping malls, which make up the typical American town. England was the ancient place of tiny roads, forest, small village centers and filled with people who actually walked place to place. I think my time in England shaped my love and desire to be a gardener. You see England is a country of gardeners. They have a very strong proud tradition of gardening and nothing screams that more, than the completely amazing Eden Project.
The Eden Project, in Cornwall England, is a celebration of growing things. Here is the official spill: The Eden Project is an unforgettable experience in a breathtaking location; a global garden; a place of beauty and wonder. Our world famous architecture and art draws inspiration from nature, our educational work is about creating a positive future in a world that is going to go through radical change, and we try to ensure everyone who visits Eden leaves knowing something more about their connection to the world. That’s the big stuff…Eden is also about simple pleasures; enjoying tasty food, rediscovering what puts the great into the great outdoors, imaginative play for children, taking time to stop and smell the flowers, having a good time.
What happens when a carpenter / artist learns about primitive techniques of building and experiments with tree saplings as a construction material? Natural organic forms of art on a grand scale.
Internationally acclaimed sculptor Patrick Dougherty is known for large-scale installations that incorporate tree saplings. Working only with these saplings, the North Carolina based artist twists and wraps his medium to create large, organic sculptures. The surrounding environment and its given materials play a significant role in shaping his sculptures. Dougherty often uses saplings gathered near the installation site, adjusting his designs to the different ways local materials bend and respond in his hands.
What do you do, if you are itching to grow things, but live in a walk up apartment in Brooklyn? You convert a old pickup into a mobile Truck Farm. A funny way to indulge your green thumb. Wicked Delicate Productions, created a very special film about their journey to create their very own Truck Farm.
The ordinary looking truck — ordinary aside from the bed filled with soil (using green roof technology) and heirloom veggies — parked on Van Brunt Street had been turning heads in the neighborhood for a while but no one knew quite what to make of it. Two months later, Cheney’s mobile garden/CSA-on-wheels/four-wheeled farm is literally all over the place.
Truck Farm by Wicked Delicate Episode One (part 2 after the jump)
I have seen these crazy looking rat guys here in Venice for years. Walking up and down the streets in the middle of the night, balancing on tops of fences and magically disappearing before the sun rises. I have always been too scared of their looks to ever get close to one. So, when I saw the Quest Show Feature on Opossums, I knew I had to post it on G Living. They turn out to be cool guys to have around the garden and they are not that scary.
Did you know that opossums are good to have in your backyard? Learn why and a bunch of other cool critter facts when we visit the wildlife ambassadors that live at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, CA.
As I sit here staring into my two 30 inch screens, my eyes start to glaze over and I fall into deep dreamy thoughts of my future life as a gardener. Someday soon, I will balance my life, I will stop trapping myself in this box, I will stop staring into my screens for 14 hours a day. I will stop being single minded and start balancing my designing, business life with life as a gardener. For years now I have been waiting to start my gardens, because I live in Industrial crowded noisy Los Angeles, I wanted to be in a more natural place. I didn’t think L.A. was the place to dig in my roots, but maybe I was wrong. I could have started much sooner, if only I would have followed in the path of the Urban Homestead in Pasadena.
This simple little home in sun baked Pasadena, which is part of Los Angeles, is a world within it’s self. With only 1/5 acre they grow enough food to support the 4 adults living on the property. They grow over 350 varieties of editable plants, and produce over 6,000 pounds of produce each year. They even have some farm critters, such as ducks and chicks living within the gardens. Blows me away. Their site pathtofreedom.com, is basically a how to guide, for anyone interested in jumping in transforming your own small urban yard. It’s worth a look and if your in the area, you can even stop by for a visit.
New York Times Video about Life Off The Grid
Continue Reading / See Additional Photos
You’ve selected your site and prepped your soil. A bag of all purpose organic vegetable fertilizer sits quietly in your garage. Don’t worry about the soil stains on those designer jeans you thought would make forking more fun — it’s nothing a little soap won’t take care of. Dirt under the fingernails? A quick manicure will fix that. (And if you haven’t checked out how stylish garden gloves have become recently, you should. Mine are hot pink and make me look like a race car driver.)
Revved up and raring to go?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to apply soil amendments, I want to take a moment to reflect on why it’s important to grow organically. Let’s move past the obvious and overstated issues of health, clean water, lowering fossil fuel dependency and cutting the pharmaceutical companies out of our food. I’d like to explore the more subtle, underlying aspects of this important consumer choice.
I got into organic farming and gardening to make a difference, knowing how miniscule and relatively insignificant my contributions were likely to be. While I may not be able to move the mountains I want to — not by myself, anyway — at the end of the day… of the decade… of my life, I want to know that I did my part to make this place more beautiful than it was. That I spread the spark of imagination and demonstrated the possibilities of how beautiful and abundantly we can live.