I’m not a gardener. I didn’t come to gardening naturally or in childhood. I didn’t grow up gardening side-by-side with my parents, grandparents, or anybody else.
I mean, my parents gardened for a few years, but I didn’t want to be out there at all. Heck, I just barely wanted to leave my room.
In fact, I wasn’t drawn to nature the way so many people are. I’d mostly rather sit quietly and read a book than anything else in the world. Add in meditation and cute clothes, and these are some of my favorite things.
I learned to garden from a housemate in my 30s. The house was in a rural setting and we had another friend till the land; then we planted. Going out to daily to tend plants and pluck veggies and herbs for dinner was a treat; it’s something I still enjoy.
Permaculture came into my awareness as a result of working at the world-renowned Omega Institute for Holistic Studies; there was a course and it sounded intriguing, but I really didn’t want to dig in dirt. Books meditation, cute clothes, remember?
But as the years passed by and I learned about propagating plants and had small gardens in pots on balconies, I hoped for a place of my own where I could grow something. Maybe food? Definitely pretty flowers.
Fast forward to 2012, and I purchased my current home. It has just the right amount of garden space for me to putter, and then a little bit more. I’ve puttered around a bit, and have some pictures to share from earlier this month.
Permaculture is a whole different animal than conventional gardening. It’s an overall philosophy and systematic approach to a piece of land; it can also be applied to our inner life as well as inside the home.
And there are tons of resources online to learn more. Over the last two years I worked at obtaining a 72-hour Permaculture Design Certificate through the Permaculture Women’s Guild.
The course caused me to learn about things that are way outside of my comfort zone of meditation, cute clothes, and books. At the end of the course I had to do a 20-minute presentation giving an overview of my forty-plus page plan for my little piece of land in Michigan.
Permaculture has informed what I’ve planted and how I’ve planted. From the pictures, you can see I have peach, apple, and crab apple. I also have plum and Egyptian “walking” onions. There are two kinds of thyme here, and an abundance of flowers and other herbs.
Weeds and Water
There are also a lot of “weeds.” What’s the phrase? One man’s weed is another man’s flower – or something like that.
In my journey towards permaculture I had to adjust my thinking about weeds. I love a beautifully manicured lawn as much as the next person, but I also know they’re generally horrible for the environment. All that grass has very little to offer bees, birds, and other wildlife. Grass eats up water, and (in urban settings) sends that water down the driveway and into the street.
Maybe the easiest way to get a basic understanding of permaculture is through thinking about water. Where does the water on your property come from, and where does it go?
On my tiny property, water comes in from the city and goes back out. Water comes down from the sky in the form of rain and snow. The rain goes through the gutters and two downspouts shoots the water straight towards my neighbor’s yard. Another downspout shoots the water into the backyard. With permaculture, my goal is to capture that rain water and invite it to sink into the land, thus nourishing everything.
It’s kind of the same with plants. I let the clover and plantain grow because they nurture healthy soil; I can also eat them and/or use them for medicine if need be. Plantain, for example, can be used for first aid on stings, bites, or minor burns; it can be used in an infused oil or salve, too.
You can make a tea from red clover, or use it in an infusion or tincture; pretty sure one of these days I’ll learn how to do these things. I already make tea from my overabundance of lemon balm; it’s great for relieving stress, helping with digestion, and overall mental health.
I’m growing all those herbs and flowers and fruits for the same reason. And if you look at a garden bed I’ve developed it has got peach, comfrey, lemon thyme, chives, clover, and more. It’s messy and it’s very diverse.
June In The Garden
In early June, the greens in the garden are on point. All the grass is alive and not crunchy; that happens later towards August and September.
The Iris, clover, and chives are blooming. Now is when I go out and cut chives to sprinkle on dinner or use in sandwiches. Maybe some chive spread? And I’ll for sure use either the English thyme or lemon thyme on something – maybe salmon.
The wild violets are done blooming for the year, as are the fruit trees. But if you look closely on the fruit trees, you will see little tiny fruits just starting to grow; they’ll be ready towards the end of the summer. I’ll be able to pick the Nanking cherries in July; I’m hoping the Everblooming strawberries settle in and get really comfortable. They’re new, so I don’t blame them if they don’t feel like making strawberries this year.
I’m not a gardener. But I am as predictable and as diverse as my garden. How about you?