Friday, March 23, 2012

The Garden Path

And Jehovah God planted a garden eastward, in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made Jehovah God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil....  And Jehovah God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.  Genesis 2:8-9,15 (ASV)

The vernal equinox last Tuesday marked the official beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere.  For me, this represents the beginning of the gardening season.

I have been an avid gardener for a very long time.  When I was growing up, my father has a very large garden on the east end of our property.  For a couple years the neighbor brought his tractor down and plowed it up in exchange for the use of the field on top of the hill on the south side of the house.  Probably my earliest memory of a garden is hopping from one big clod to another in the freshly plowed garden.

It wasn't too many years later I actively became involved.  Gurney's had a one-cent seed packet for kids.  (Alas, I don't see it in their catalog anymore.)  It was a huge collection of all different kinds of vegetables and flowers.  With that variety, something was guaranteed to grow.  In my case, I had a lot of success with some kind of black bean.  I grew it for several years in a row, until I had a honey jar filled with them.  It would not surprise me if it is still in my parent's house somewhere.  (I wonder if they would still germinate.)

My next foray into gardening came after reading Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholemew.  (If you've never gardened before, I highly recommend it and its successor, All New Square Foot Gardening, which has 10 major improvements.)  Coming home for the summer from college, I thoroughly enjoyed putting together square beds with concrete blocks salvaged from an old basement on the property.  I did enjoy some successes and had a number of learning opportunities.

Shortly afterwards I learned about John Jeavons Ecology Action and his biointensive methods.  I especially like his perspective on grains and compost crops.  I started developing my own variety of rye specifically to use its straw as a mulch.

Around the same time, I entered the Master of Science in Sustainable Systems program at Slippery Rock University.  During my second semester there I took the Permaculture Design Course.  I have been using those principles on my property ever since.

This year I'm coming full circle.  I am taking the correspondence course for teaching Square Foot Gardening, and I've been making boxes and mixing soil accordingly. I wholeheartedly agree with Dorothy Frances Gurney's sentiment:

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,--
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth.

You don't need to enjoying gardening on the Long Ascent, but you'll be better off if you're close to and with someone who does.


  1. Bravo!

    I spent many days in an acre garden in my first decade, on a farm not far from where I grew up. We gardened at home too, and there are few things I enjoy more to this day, than picking beans, peas, cukes and tomatoes off the vine.

    The only critique I have here, in deference to the many practitioners of permaculture who need money just like the rest of us, a design course, while productive, is not necessary, especially if it means going into debt bondage. Getting your hands dirty will suffice, and asking questions, and reading whatever you can find. And this blog seems like a good place to start.

    Thank you for the links. I'll be showing something I learned about the making of good soil, from Jeavons, in my next post.

  2. You make a good point about the Permaculture Design Course. Perhaps I should have mentioned that mine was paid for by my graduate assistantship. Alas, I believe that the time I took it was the last time it was offered at SRU. I wholeheartedly agree that the PDC is not necessary, especially if it means going into debt. I would even add that I don't think it is the best option; that would be working for an extended period beside an experienced Permaculturalist, while of course getting your hands dirty and asking questions.

    This particular post wasn't meant to be a comparison of different gardening systems; I'm planning on that for later. This was more an exposition of my background. All the systems mentioned have good points and bad. Again, my only real recommendation here is that people start taking an interest in who grows their food and how.

    I definitely look forward to your post on making good soil.

    1. People in the big cities live life as a mere survival existance and don't really live life to it's wholesome fullness. I lived at the edge of wilderness in my former Southern California home in the mountains and couldn't get emough of it. I miss that place. I am presently in Göteborg Sweden for the past 6 years and look forward to moving back and being able to garden, landscape and Guerrila habiat restore if I can get away with it LOL!

      I hate cities(In Europe or the States) and long cold winters with only 4 real months of growing season. I'm a sort of desert rat at heart and a white winter desertscapes are not my idea of deserts. That's what i get for marrying a Swede. Although she wants to move back to my area. Kool!

      Enjoyed your articles.


  3. I do the fortress version of square foot gardening.

    Which is to say that my garden is beseiged by deer, so that anything planted must have an exterior barrier of some sort.