I've spent a lot of time over this winter planning the garden and community garden plot for 2016. So I want to write about going from blank slate to the big plan. I'm going to split this into a few posts and end up with the big plan - what I'm planting this year, garden architecture, and seed starting!
If you have known me for awhile, you know that I spent over 10 years working on the garden in our last home. It went from a tiny urban grass plot to a dense and lush integrated urban permaculture garden packed with fruit, vegetables, flowers, herbs, and kids. We outgrew that house years ago, but the garden plus the difficulty of showing a house we all live/work in 24/7 means we stayed and stayed. Last year we finally made the jump and moved into a new green built home about 20 miles from where we used to live. We went from a tiny bowling alley urban garden flanked by 2 houses tucked in at the bottom of a hill to a more suburban garden at one of the highest points in the area, atop a hill, next to prairie and fields. Our "new" yard is still likely smaller than average but we wanted more usable gardening space without really having massive expanses of HOA regulated grass. So, it is about 3 times the size of our previous garden. Woot! We are now in a smaller outlying community with views that seemingly go on forever, a sky full of stars, and never ending amazing sunsets.
We moved in last spring, but it took a few months after that to have concrete poured and have grading/topsoil/initial landscaping done. I wanted to take the "wait and see' approach to see how different the soil, the light, the wind, and the insects are here before I went too far. I'm glad I waited. We may have moved only 19 miles, but the soil here is red and sandy. Atop our hill the winds are very (very!) strong. And after the exciting burst of hundreds of toads into the yard in summer, fall came with thousands of grasshoppers (we are next to prairie and corn fields). We also saw many voles, field mice, bald eagles (squee!), crows, and hawks. I know now where we need shade, where the sunny spots are, what kind of organic controls we will need, and what plants will work best where.
What we focused on last year was our community garden plot and initial yard plantings. We were so happy to find that there is an organic community garden only a few miles from the house. That is where we can plant the bigger more rambling things, install the not-so-attractive cages and trellises and nettings. And it gives us a few hundred extra square feet of space. So last summer most of my seed starting was for the community garden, and then mostly pots here. With that, I started many hundreds of seedlings that we planted out from pots to yard in August when we finally had grass and some initial landscaping beds.
What we planted Summer 2015 yard: a few blueberries, a few blackberries, 2 varieties of grapes, echinacea, lilacs along the deck, a weigela atop a boulder wall, yarrow, hydrangeas, creeping thyme and purslane in rock walls, red maple, some raspberries we brought from the old house, and a bed of mixed herbs for pollinators including bee balm, anise hyssop, mint, and moldavian dragonhead balm. We also planted a lot of sunflowers right along the line of our yard and the field, and we tossed a bunch of prairie flower seeds where the skidsteers ripped up the prairie grading our yard, so we had a bunch of extra flowers along the edge which brought birds all summer and winter.
The 2015 community garden plan was mostly to get all of my seedlings into the ground and see how the soil is in the plot. We built up the soil with compost and worked hard to keep the most insane weeds I've ever seen at bay. It worked, but we have a better idea of what the soil and plot need for next year!
Next ... the big plan for 2016 for both yard and community garden, plotting a grid, and organizing the seed starting calendar!
I am a certified aromatherapist, clinical herbalist, organic gardener, plant conservationist, photographer, writer, designer, artist, nature lover, permaculture designer, health justice activist, whole foods maker, and mother of two unschooled boys in south central Wisconsin.