Friday, May 1, 2009
The Other Side of the New Leaf
For awhile I've been mulling if I should include my gardening here on this blog. The focus of this blog is the "natural" ecology of my home, not neccessarily the artificial ecology of my garden. However, in spending 8 years now observing and contemplating the forest, who lives there and how they live there together, I find things I learn about the forest have influenced how I think about my garden.
Gardening in the temporate rainforest at elevation has its difficulties(technically it's located in transition between oak savannah and fir forest, at 1000 feet). The soil stays colder and damper longer, making seed germination iffy, at least when I wish seeds to sprout. The soil is a heavy clay, with lots of nutrition, but understanding is needed to unlock those nutrients. One can't just add compost ad nauseum to clay soil either, there are chemical bonds that are affected by certain elements. All a bunch of science very fun to learn. Over the years I've learned to improve the tilth of my soil, but I wanted to move beyond using outside fertilizers and amendments--for reasons of money(none to spare), and also the idea I should be able to use what is available right around me.
So after years of seeing the forest around me produce a jungle of biomass--I'm thinking why can't I produce that same abundance in my garden, instead of so much traditional spacing out. I've known about the Three Sisters concept--corn, beans, squash--but wanted to learn how to expand that for other vegetables. Of course this draws from basic concepts like square foot gardening and companion planting. But in the back of my mind I was making connections more based on relationships I observed in my forest and wanted to mirror those, in species and habit, rather than a vegetable garden that essentially is still full of a monoculture of non-native species I have to coddle.
Completely by accident I came across a group for Edible Forest Gardening on Facebook, and was happily gobsmacked that my idea was actually a "real" theory...so now I have a name for it. I'll continue my gardening experiments and share the info here, since inspiration comes from the forest--the land itself where I am gardening. making my garden native, instead of invasive.
The photo above shows my food garden before I started messing with it this year. The deer are voracious here as well as bionic, so the fence needs to be tall. It's mostly set up with raised beds. Last year I did nothing with the garden except mulch most of the beds, with either tarps or leaves, and added wood ash from the stove.
I gave myself a few parameters to work with this year:
1. Use free stuff, scrounge, beg, repurpose, recycle stuff from the junkpile.
2. Learn more about how the forest nourishes itself and use those same materials in my garden. After all, the dirt I've been working with has evolved to work with those resources, why not use them(relationships!).
3. Use more native species in the garden, either as food(Oregon Myrtle for example) or as nutrients to compost or mulch.
(and don't worry, I still ride my dirt bike in the woods...responsibly)