Monday, May 20, 2013

$15 DIY Garden Makeover and Permaculture Baby-Steps

Once upon a time, there was an ugly corner of yard that held a giant pile of dead nursery plants in their original, now broken, plastic pots.  It was weird and useless.

So I dumped approximately a million baby plants out of their planters (hey, I didn't want to waste good dirt! and it's not recyclable with the plastic pots anyway...) and started to envision something new.

Some digging, hauling, and compost adding ensued, and the ugly corner has been transformed!  Into basically salad.  To be fair, there's also a cabbage and a broccoli, and a few big herbs, but most of that green mess is lettuces, radishes, carrots, and spinach.  Enough for many, many salads or green smoothies.

The best part about this garden is the price: about $15.00.  The cinder blocks were just lying around the property, so all we spent money on were seeds and a few bags of purchased compost (I know...purchased! But my homemade compost is not ready yet).  And we are indeed hauling buckets of water down to the garden until we see if an existing water conduit works.  It is a fantastic workout.

My mom and I are teaming up on this garden, and I think she was a little horrified when I announced my planting strategy: "Let's plant everything all together, so the fast-growing greens make a 'living mulch' for the slower plants.  Then when we eat the greens, they will let in sun for what remains."  She has been gardening for quite a while, and her veggie gardens are usually very organized, with little charts drawn up of what's planted where, neat little squares of various things (square-foot-garden style), and not much chaos.  So thanks, mom, for playing along and embracing the chaos with me!  I am quite sure in one corner she gave my 3- and 4-year-old a handful of seeds and let them toss them wherever they wanted.

Now our big job is to figure out what everything is in that huge delicious mess - and to keep the toddler from yanking it all out.

In spite of the appearance of chaos, I am happy with the way the garden is progressing.  The greens really are "mulching" well for the larger plants, keeping the weeds down beautifully.  We are starting to harvest them now as the garden begins to mature, making room for sun to get to the things that will be there throughout the summer.

Although this garden looks pretty traditional, the planting scheme is my first attempt at a permaculture way of veggie-gardening.  I'm pretty dead-set against traditional tilled rows of identical veggies being an ideal way to grow, so the no-till nature of this garden is a start.  Also, I am sold on plants being mingled together with other species, both for pest confusion (like, if a bug wants to eat all the beans, it will have to search through a bunch of other stuff, rather than finding all the beans in a convenient row) and for nutrient reasons, like heavy nitrogen feeders being interspersed with less heavy ones so that they all get what they need.

I am also, for the first time, using the "chop and drop" method of composting in this garden, so that plant debris (like the bits of radish I know I'm not going to eat) gets torn/chopped into smaller bits and tossed right there on the soil to decompose, rather than being hauled to the compost bin.  Aside from being "how nature composts" and, well, nice and lazy, this has the advantage of keeping all nutrients and microbial activity there in the garden, where I want them, instead of under my compost pile, where it's not doing anybody any good.

So, in spite of just looking like a badly organized raised garden bed, there has been some permaculture-y thought behind this garden.  I am learning as I go, and starting small.

I have a few more pictures and permaculture projects to come, but I think they better turn into a new post, to come soon!

What have you been working on this spring?


  1. We're also just beginning to take baby steps toward permaculture. We already use some techniques - we just didn't have a name for them. Thanks for sharing. I came over from Small Footprint Fridays.

    1. It sounds like you are already ahead of the game if you're using some of the techniques. It has been easier to find information now that I have a name for it all! Have you ever checked out the forums? They have been so helpful so far. Thanks for visiting!

  2. This looks awesome! I found you through The Prairie Homestead. I co-host the From the Farm Blog Hop. The party just started yesterday, so we would love for you to come share with us!
    Fresh Eggs Daily

    1. Thanks for the visit. I will come check it out!


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