Why do I garden? I find it fun, and I like fresh food, but I also think it’s important as a sustainability practice for many reasons. These have to do with local resilience, soil quality, stormwater management, wildlife habitat, wildlands preservation, food waste reduction, and children’s appreciation of the natural world.
I’ll get into each of those in good time, but today I just want to describe the “before” state of my yard/garden so I can hopefully document some progress in this area as the months and years go by. It’s March, which means it’s now been 3 years since we moved into this house! Hard to believe. The first year we did very little besides battle dandelions and excavate a leaking oil tank out of the front yard. The second year we worked on healing the lawn out back and planted a few herbs and berries, and the third year we started reimagining our front yard and turning it into a permaculture garden.
Planning our Edible Garden & Yard
Working with a really nice young permaculturist named Andrew Green [andgreen à la gmail], we drew up some plans for what our yard could look like. I read Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition and got super excited about the whole thing. We dug a few beds, installed two large containers, and built an herb spiral out of salvaged bricks! OK, Andrew built that. I take no credit. All I did was salvage some bricks, pick out other salvaged bricks from Ballard Reuse and chip the mortar off the edges.
I planted the garden with a delivery from Cascadia Edible Landscape’s Community-Supported Plant Starts, which sadly seems to be “hibernating” for now, according to their website. Some starts also came from one of Seattle Tilth‘s Edible Plant Sales, like this one that’s coming up on March 12th. The blueberries I bought there last year are budding now! We even got a handful of berries from one of the bushes last year, so I can’t wait to see what this year brings.
Here is the spiral as it stands today. Several herbs are still going strong, and the garlic I planted in the fall seems to be coming up! This is my first time planting garlic (I got the starter cloves from Skinny Kitty Farms in my CSA box), so let me know if you have any tips! Several times in February, we harvested and ate the slow-growing arugula that I planted in fall and a few carrots still left over from summer. We’ve had a few frosty days and nights in Seattle this year so far, but not tons. And all rain, no snow.
A couple weeks ago, we planted peas by the base of the bamboo tipi that Andrew built for scarlet runner beans last summer. (Fortunately our neighbors have a little stand of bamboo that needs pruning now and then and they don’t mind if we prune it!) The peas are coming up slowly & cautiously now, and I plan to keep planting every 3 weeks so we’ll be able to harvest continuously for a while later in spring (fingers crossed). I have yet to start seeds indoors this year. It’s on my list, but we’ll see if we get to it. I brought out the bowl part of the “salad bowl” planter I got last year at PCC and planted more arugula in it. It sprouted really quickly and is looking nice. Asparagus is on my list, too – I bought some dry root things at Sky Nursery but am still considering the placement of this perennial carefully.
Then there are the potatoes. I forgot about a few potatoes that were in a paper bag in an unusual place in my kitchen. I think they were from the farm share. They have grown long sprouts but when researching how to plant them, I kept reading that it’s important to plant only certified seed potatoes, to as to avoid diseases that damage the plants and can also spread to tomatoes. That plus the fact that I’m not sure where I would plant these guys (would I want to get a big barrel planter thingie?) means I might just compost these spuds and aim to do a better job planning for next year.
If you’ve enjoyed this post so far, you’ll want to subscribe and keep an eye on this garden category on my blog. In addition to riveting updates about our plants, I’ll also post interviews with master gardeners, soil-builders and people who are into all kinds of cool things related to permaculture, sustainable gardening and farming. For now, here’s a guide put together by someone who interviewed more than 100 professional landscapers and included a section on eco-friendly gardening! Thanks for reading, and let me know what you’re planting in your garden or patio this month!