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Organic Layered Gardens

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So it seems I’ve been preoccupied lately with things that revolve around real world scenarios and less to do with the hubbub of the online world. For the past six years, I could say I was truly drawn into that world of instant gratification…of status updates, likes, follows and so on. But in the past few months, I’ve truly embraced the idea of unplugging myself from that dystopia. True enough, I’ll never truly let go, as I’m always one to keep up with politics, real world international news, my friends in faraway lands and music (which is much more easily accessible via the web as opposed to in real life)…but I’m much happier visiting with friends for coffee in the flesh, gabbing on the phone (who knew these things had phones?!) instead of texting and so on.

But what I really want to share with you is what I’ve been spending all my time doing, besides hiking the nearby mountainscapes (as I’ve already told you about in my previous posts).

Anyone who has followed my blog for a few years knows my obsession with organic gardening, urban agriculture and supporting local food. I’ve lived in rented or purchased houses for the past seven years, having escaped the clutches of the apartment/condo part of my life for good. Although the low maintenance attraction of condos and apartments was good when I was young, I now crave the ability to be able to wander through a yard whenever the whim strikes me. When I am the owner, I usually make it a priority to remove as much grass as possible, as I’m not a big fan of mowing…but sometimes even that can be therapeutic. I plug in some tunes, pull that cord and away I go…

As much as I want to delve deeply into my personal life with all of my readers (I know a lot of you are wondering what has been going on in my world), I’ve come to the realization over the years that giving everything away in a blog post is not the most ideal way of dealing with what life has to give us. Sometimes it is best served privately. I get the most amazing emails from people who care deeply about what happens in my life and I strive to keep in touch with those select few. If you feel like you ever need someone to talk to about life, I am always (ALWAYS) open to answering emails. I am here for you my friends, even if you think there is no one who would listen to you. I am here, ears always turned to those who need it. Although I’m no professional therapist or counsellor, I feel like even knowing there is a kind ear to listen to what you have to say is a small help to those who need it. I am always here for you…with fitness, health and food questions for sure, but also with those other niggling things people tend to not want to talk about with those around them. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone who is somewhat removed from whatever situation you are in…an unbiased opinion, if you will.

In the past four or five years, I’ve been increasingly interested in the psychological aspects of happiness and what it is that we all strive for. The act of removing negative, critical thinking from our lives and replacing it with only positivity. This is something I continually strive to teach my kids, who can fall easily into a web of negativity for some reason. Kids have so many emotions tangled up in their tiny little minds, it can be overwhelming for them sometimes. Each day I have been making time to spend some moments in the outdoors, whether in my garden or hiking, as well as having a moment of gratitude during my late night wind down time. Taking even one minute to think of the things or people in our life that we are grateful for makes a big difference in your mindset. If you in a rut in your life or feel negativity take over from those positive vibes, just think about the people in your life who love you, the things that make you smile, even tiny simple things can make you smile in the darkest moments.

Okay, back to the gardens! This has been a major source of therapy for me over the past few months. Having something to keep me busy, that needs constant attention, has made for a very interesting source of inspiration. Being someone who is deeply emotional and tends to over think any and every situation life has to deal you, having something to concentrate that energy on is a life saver. If you find yourself thinking about negative things, my advice is to immediately plug in some headphones with good tunes and head out into nature. Music + outdoor living = bliss.

So let’s go over the things I have accomplished in the last year, shall we? The following four photos are from the real estate agent that sold us this house, approximately two years ago. This is the back yard: filled with awkwardly sized gravel that the dogs hated to walk on, looked unattractive and was a pain in the ass to remove.

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As you can see in the photos, there was also a large cedar tree in the right corner of the property and several large, deep raised gardening beds filled mostly with weeds, but some strawberries as well. These all came out last fall.

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Looking from the far west corner of the back yard into the solarium/greenhouse.

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Unfortunately, the photo of the front yard doesn’t show the disaster of a garden that was in the front corner of the property. It was filled with a gigantic, overgrown and very dead evergreen bush of some kind. After removing all of the shrubbery and underlying detritus, I discovered a beautiful large, white granite rock, which I eventually turned into a native grass garden (drought resistant) with some driftwood accents.

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I also filled it with the gravel I removed from the backyard, and then covered that in wood chips I acquired for free from a local tree service company. If you are looking for wood chips that aren’t all that spectacular looking but cost absolutely nothing, contact a local tree service, they will most likely be more than willing to have you take their debris.

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These free chips have been dispersed into every garden on the property (yes, although I don’t love them, I do have some flower gardens), all of which are left over from the previous owners.

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This is the very front of the house, as you can see the palm tree has nearly doubled in height in the last two years as well. Although I love the look of it, whoever planted it put it right next to the house so it has grown into the gutters, completely cutting them off and also sits over a corner of the roof, which has to be closely watched for build up.

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This is my Meyer lemon tree that I bought about four years ago. I have seen a few lemons from it, but over the past two years it had quite a few diseases. I have been nursing it back to health over the winter, carefully scraping away the scale it had and the leaf rust. I have not pruned it, mostly because I was too worried I would kill off all my hard work. But this year it has numerous flower buds and new growth, so I’m crossing my fingers for lemons next year.

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And now for what I’ve down with that hideous backyard. These are the two 10 x 10 organic layered garden beds on the northwestern corner of the property. I used the process of lasagna gardening, and began with cardboard I more or less dumpster dived for. Who knew it would be so hard to find large amounts of cardboard? My suggestion: don’t go looking the day after recycling day. On top of the cardboard varies from garden to garden as I ran out of materials as I went but mostly goes like this: half composted leaves, compost, composted horse manure, composted wood chips, dirt, leaves, dirt, peat moss, topped off with premium blend gardening soil. All the layers are about 3-4″ thick.

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This is a third bed I added almost as an afterthought, but am glad I did, as I have many many seeds to plant and need all the garden space I can manage. The gravel was completely removed and replaced with many inches of wood chips. I probably laid down about 8″ here.

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This funky little garden came at the suggestion of a friend when I was trying to figure out where to put my climbing plants. I attached the netting, left over from our chickens, to the gutters with twine and staked them down. Then I created a meandering wood chip path with small patches of soil and manure to use for shade loving plants such as lettuce.  This part of the yard gets much less light than the rest.

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So what have a got in mind for plants? Well…a lot. I actually have so many seed starts and so little room in the garden that my thought is to start a small garden stand in the front of the house where I can sell the excess seedlings to my lovely neighbours. Here you can see my very spindly cauliflower which I am going to restart as they go too little light in the crucial first week. Behind them, you can just see the curling leaves of Florence fennel.

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I’ve also planted leeks, walla walla onions and shallots.

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The last thing I planted was Chocolate Beauty Peppers, which are a beautiful brownish purple sweet pepper. I have these on heat mats in the living room.

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The rest of what I plan on planting (All my seeds are from West Coast Seeds, Saltspring Seeds, Eagleridge Seeds and Hawthorn Farm):

Wild Pacific Strawberries
Green Sprouting Broccoli
Amazing Cauliflower
Snowball Cauliflower
Red Opal Basil
Rainbow Chard
Purslane
Sugar Ann Snap Peas
Olympia Spinach
Old German Tomatoes
Black Krim Tomatoes
Lednicky Lettuce Blend
Burgess Buttercup Squash
Cilantro
Gladiator Parsnip
Jalapeno Peppers
Early Butternut Squash
Starburst Radish
Bulb Scallions
Rainbow Carrots
Marion Rutabaga
Super Gourmet Lettuce Blend
Purple Peacock Pole Beans
Scarlet Emperor Beans
Gnadenfeld Melon
Peaches and Cream Corn
Zucchini
Ching Chang Bok Choy

2 comments to Organic Layered Gardens

  • Oh, I want a garden in our backyard! I just know it’s going to be devoured by our crazy Montreal gray squirrels unless I cover the whole thing with netting or wire (which people pretty much have to do)… Hmm… well, at least I have time to think about it. We still have a thick layer of snow here!
    Michelle recently posted..Herriott GraceMy Profile

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