1.Edible gardens are a part of every culture and the feeling you get when you pluck your first tart blueberry off the shrub that you grew from a seedling is irreplaceable. On a recent trip to the Czech republic with my wife Gabriela, we spent a good deal of time on bicycles. That in itself is significant as we were able to maneuver through the streets and reach our destinations via a network of interconnected bike trails and bridges making all points of the city accessible. It was on one of these trips through what appeared to be a dense urban housing development that I had a wonderful shock. Right next to the high rise was an entire city block of edible gardens. Rows of potatoes, leeks, carrots, lettuces, tomatoes, grape vines, gooseberries, dill, chives, parsely and on and on. Rain barrels recycled art from plastic bottles even chickens hunting for insects amidst the chard and cabbages. I began to look more closely at the 'normal' yards i was passing by and saw groups of apple trees, plum and apricot, had i stumbled upon a secret eden? Every square inch of land was considered for some edible purpose it seemed. Of course I exaggerate but not by much. There were pea patches or community garden plots throughout the city and when we ventured into the country the gardens were more focused toward creating the staples for nourishment and ultimately survival and it was all right outside the front door. As we struggle to put 2 cents together what can we learn from this parable? Simply that we can all have our little edens to nourish the mind and body if we simply look at the land as less of a means to make money from and more as an oasis to cultivate.
Which brings us to the question. How do I make my garden more edible? Most large cities now have community gardens of some sort or another within their midst and that is great. If you visit there you will notice every available scrap of ground is utilized for some purpose or another. In our home gardens we habitually create large open areas of turf. With children one needs space and manageable space for safe play. But for those without children or of empty nests, we can reclaim some of this space and have it produce for us. Fruit trees are great because they can be set into a border or along the perimeter of our property and with good soil will produce at least a moderate harvest. Shrubs like blueberries are also adaptable to a variety of sites. The vacant lot and there are many within our city limits can be a public orchard.
2.Herb Garden: Sand or grit mixed with good garden soil will grow most any herb. The bulk of herbs requires at least six hours of sunlight for maximum growth and flowering. Direct sow seeds in early spring for best results and keep watered. Basil, lemon balm, tomatoes can all be grown direct sow. I also propagate by cuttings with rosemary, oregano, thymes and bay laurel. Think in terms of usage when selecting herbs the temptation is to have one of everything but if you focus your plant choices you will get more out of you garden. I recently planted Tulsi Basil as I really like the yea it makes and we have used it frequently. Tulsi or Holy Basil is an indian herb and is a general tonic and aid in clearing the bronchial tube. Good for cold and flu season. Other herbs are out native perennials like echinacea which produces beautiful flowers as well.
3. Stone garden: If you don't already know I love stone. Some plants do as well thriving in conditions that would kill other plants. This is due to their special adaptations whether it be fleshy leaved aloes, hairy leaved Syllphiums or tough narrow leaved asters. If you want to re create this type of garden you need three things rocks, gravel and a little bit of soil. You can create a sunny or shady rock garden and different plants will thrive in either. Most of the projects i deal with are in full sun so that limits my choices but if there is a canopy you can fit in some shade loving plants. Sedums, thymes, creeping phloxes all enjoy being nestled among stones.
4. Native Gardens make more sense the more you consider their benefits. In the garden surrounding our home I have been working a border of plantings under an old oak tree for a few reasons. Firstly the aesthetics of native plants is under appreciated by the majority of gardeners though several nurseries and enthusiastic groups have taken it upon themselves to understand and promote the native plant communities. Secondly how we use natives is entirely dependent upon the gardener, in my case the border I am working with has as its basis a thick layer of compost from years of leaf litter and fallen branches which makes perfect foundation for the local woodland species and those common to the woods edge. Central to the plan are native azaleas( Rhod. Austrinum, canescens and a cultivar named Phlox pink) next to them are a Bottlebrush Buckeye, Vaccinium Arboreum, Oakleaf Hydrangea, Arrowood Viburnum and mayhaw. Underneath these I have worked in Little Bluestem grasses, Butterflyweed at the edge of the border, Stiff Aster, Echinacea purpurea, Golden alexander, mountain mint and Thalictrum or meadow rue. In between there is just the leaf mold with some stumps and other similarly rotting humus. I pull weeds here and there throughout the season but not in anywhwere near the amounts as in the vegetable garden. Nature has its own controls. The shade from the tree prevents sun loving weeds from getting a start and the thick humus layer maintains a thick insulating carpet on top of the soil preserving moisture and encouraging earthworms and other unseen critters to help break down all the organic matter. I will at times use newspaper in place of landscape fabric. Cover it with mulch, compost or gravel. It lasts for almost three years and reverts to compost. After the first year of intermittent watering I have not put a hose on that spot. As you can see by the photos the plants are not just surviving they are thriving in this system. Nature distributes plants differently than we do but it is by paying attention to those situations in which certain plants thrive that we can best adapt native species into our garden spaces. Below is Echinacea Purpurea in front of Bottlebrush Buckeye.
Asarum Shuttleworthii Heartleaf Ginger
Thank you for visiting Stoneshovel please let me know if i can help with any of your gardening needs!