Posted in 1 Garden, 2 Home

The Evolution of a Design

One of the “rules” of Permaculture is that every design evolves.  And it should, as needs change and plants grow.

house front orig
I called my new home “the ugliest house on the block.”  Today’s sitting garden (pictured below) is where the gold truck is parked.

When I first moved into this house, I knew I didn’t want an extensive garden to take care of, because the house itself needed so much work, and I had other things I wanted to do.

What I needed for the front yard was 1) sunlight to reach the south-facing windows, 2) year-round beauty, 3) privacy, and 4) low-maintenance.

The solution was to erect a fence, and plant evergreens near the street that wouldn’t grow higher than 8 feet, so the lowest winter sun can still heat the house; use shorter plants and deciduous trees near the house, so the sun can shine over or through them in winter; and plant perennial and native flowers everywhere I could.

mesquite2Keeping things simple (I’d complicate it later), I created narrow gardens, 2- to 3-feet wide, all around the perimeter of the yard, next to the house, next to the road, and around the one enclosing side.  Done.  Simple.

Later, after the water harvesting and solar features were developed, and the kitchen-side garden terraces were built and planted – and even after I added a mesquite tree and bench to the front yard – I found the big empty space was just not inviting, even surrounded by greenery and flowers.  Besides that, the granite gravel needed weeding!

The Permaculture solution to weeds is to plant more of what you want.  So I expanded the garden space to every square inch that wasn’t needed for a walkway or for sitting.

Not that I wanted the extra work of creating or maintaining more gardens, but this felt like playwhen the time was right – and I did it little by little.  The payoff was huge!

And it actually resulted in less work!  Gardens, as living communities, tend to take less work than single plants or spare gardens.  The plants in a more complex community provide each other nutrients, shade, moisture, mulch, and more – and that’s work we don’t have to do.

Widening the gardens meant that I’d need to utilize the “keyhole

From Toby Hemenway's book,
From Toby Hemenway’s book, “Gaia’s Garden.”
one winter squash will be nestled in each lobe of this adapted
See the keyhole on the left, near the hose? The original garden is back where the roses are, on the right.

garden” design (creating short walkways into them every six linear feet or so, so that every part of the garden is within a three-foot reach.

front yard
Since this photo was taken last year, we’ve laid down cedar mulch over the gravel, giving the yard a much softer “forest-like” appearance.  Sunflowers have been positively amending the soil (thanks!), but also rather dominating the space, creating a much wilder picture! And the central mesquite (rather obscured in this photo by the elderberry behind it) is bigger this year too – one day providing more serious summer shade.

And here’s the garden today, so lush, I begin nearly every day, summer and winter, sitting here, feeling oh so blessed!

Posted in 1 Garden

Listening to the Garden

DSC03486One of the terrace beds spoke first:  


Imagine a zucchini plant here.  

Easy to grow.  

There’s plenty of space.  

It’s near the kitchen door, where it can be watched daily – and the zukes won’t get as big as your leg without you noticing.  

Full sun (no moldy spots like you got last year in the partial shade).  

It’ll be perfect.  

My practical mind responded:  Yeah, and it’ll fill the whole area, and I’ll have less to do!

Another terrace section spoke next:  

You like yellow squash too.

And, we have almost full sun here.

Yellows are easy too.

Also we’re also near the kitchen door….

Okay, I said, looking around for the next bare spot to speak, and wrote “zucchini” and “yellow squash” on a seeds-to-procure list.

Tomato start is surrounded by four garlic cloves, with parsley behind and basil in the stone terrace just below.  Dead plant cuttings (to the right) keep the cat out.
Tomato start is surrounded by four garlic cloves, with parsley behind and basil in the stone terrace just below. Dead plant cuttings (to the right) keep the cat out.

Hh-hmmm, said the space behind the one lone tomato start (more will come later).

The tomato will need some company, and it’s time you began remembering what’s in those plant companion books you have!  Check ’em out!

I did and chose both parsley and basil from the seeds we have on hand to be tomato’s company, along with a few cloves of garlic from the kitchen.

Reading (again) about basil, and remembering last year’s lush plants, grown easily, I decided I needed a lot of it – for food, medicine, beauty, flowers, bees, and more – and I planted it in one bed (near the tomato) and in two containers, with more planned.

And the garlic, I read, will be good around the bases of my apricot and almond trees too.  Better get to work!  Or is it play?

Thanks, Garden, for the nudge!