February 2009 I moved into my home.
I built the first things I had ever built, 6 square raised beds. There are nails sticking out of the ends and they are a little bit crooked because I didn’t brace the corners. But they’re still holding on. I keep them because they are a reminder.
6 years ago.
6 years ago all the trees surrounding my house were shorter and I was convinced that maximum sunlight and straight rows of tomatoes, beans and peppers were all I needed.
A friend brought over some asparagus crowns and started pulling my weeds.
I thanked her for both.
And after three years of organic gardening in the best way I knew how…my soil SUCKED. I mean really…it was visibly worse than when I had started. My little homestead in a rural city was supposed to be the model of sustainability and here I was, 3 years in and realizing this wasn’t sustainable at ALL.
I started talking about taking out trees, to my husbands dismay. Using up more land. Making the garden bigger and bigger. There were entire times of the year where my soil was bare, exposed to the elements with no mulch, nutrients just washing away.
The switch flipped when my cherry tree died of fusarium wilt.
The first year I could expect cherries, the blossoms came and shortly after they shriveled up and died. Then the whole tree started weeping, the leaves turned brown and in time, it was just a stick in the ground.
So I started looking up orchard maintenance. I read that successful orchards are seen when a great number of different weeds are thriving around the trees.
What is that? I was taught all my life that plants hate competition. They can’t stand each other. They need 1 foot here and 20 feet there and don’t let them mingle because production will go down!
I did more reading. More and more reading. The internet is a great place for someone on a mission to learn something new.
I learned the names of all the wildlfowers and the weeds.
I learned most of them were edible, some of them were medicinal.
I learned that the soil is alive, that tilling it was like taking a knife to skin.
Basically, I learned that I was doing it all wrong.
So what did I have to change?
I started spending more time walking around the garden than working in it. I often wondered what my neighbors thought of me, standing in my yard, staring at one corner, then another. Taking three steps, looking down for ten minutes. Picking up a tool and not using it, continuing to JUST LOOK.
I started dragging peoples cut down trees home, and burying logs in the ground.
Then I learned about Hugelkultur.
I started wondering why my garden looked so bare in winter.
Then I learned that perennials will literally save the Earth because of their ability to trap carbon.
I planted my usual annuals and silently wished they could be as water independent as the dandelion.
I started eating dandelions.
For the last three years I’ve just let the garden grow. Of course I’m still planting things. I’m planting with GUSTO. Planting things everywhere!
But I’m doing a lot less pulling. A lot less yanking, sawing, trampling and no, I mean NO Tilling. My soil looks awesome, the garden is productive, I’m working less and reaping more. I’ve added chickens. This year I’ll be adding bees. I hope to one day add a pond for keeping fish.
My life is full of abundance. It always was I just had to learn how to see it.
First I learned how to work. Then I learned how to see. Then I learned how to be grateful.
And that’s how the Great Full Garden came to be.