Growing up on a farm in Minnesota, fields and gardens were a major part of my family’s lives. We fed ourselves, many relatives, and supplied local markets with the food we grew there. My Mom tended lush flower gardens that made our world beautiful, and out of them she occasionally supplied brides with flowers for their bouquets.
When I moved to New York City to live, attend school, and soon start my own business, my only real garden spot was inside my smallish apartment and a fire escape. So I planted some pots with plants that grew well indoors and flowers for the fire escape because they made me happy, as gardens do. It was my way of taking part of the farm with me when I lived in such an urban sprawl.
Today I live in Los Angeles with my boyfriend John and our dog Greta in a house with a big back yard. Since California is in the middle of a serious drought, lawns and plants requiring an abundant water supply obviously don’t make much sense. A large percentage of our country’s food is grown here, so in addition to residents of California being affected by the drought, it may have a disastrous affect on our entire country’s food supply as well.
A rethinking of our own personal yards and gardens is certainly in order. Even in a small area, choosing to plant drought tolerant plants and grow vegetables, herbs, and medicinal plants seems wise.
I wanted to get rid of the grass the landlord had once planted but was now taken over by crabgrass and prickly weeds even Greta didn’t even like to walk on. I had already relocated my succulents, geraniums, and drought tolerant plants from a previous garden to areas that made them happy and multiply, but I wanted to grow some food in an area of Los Angeles so hot and dry in the summer that you could just grow your own sun dried tomatoes on the vine….
As serendipity has it, a book came to my rescue on this very subject last year. Written by my good friend and Shamanic Healer Melinda Joy Miller, her book Shamanic Gardening integrates sustainable ancient and traditional gardening methods with shamanic principles and modern eco ideas. Melinda and her daughter Kim Colwell, the owners of Shambhalla Institute have been my go-to gurus for all things feng shui, and that includes my garden. I was so happy to have her help figuring out the best plan.
John & I decided to try the “forest method” Melinda describes in her book, since the basic idea is to create a sustainable environment for plants to grow with less water and natural fertilizer. The forest method is designed to hold a reservoir of water 2 ft or so under the surface, thereby making the garden area require less water once planted. Additionally, as they break down, the layers of leaves, mulch, and sticks create a natural fertle environment, eliminating the need for fertilizers. As we assembled our layers, we added vegetable and fruit trimmings to create compost.
We decided to dig down 18″ then build a raised bed. The hole is filled with a layer of sticks, then mulch, leaves, newspaper, and just 3 inches of dirt.
Two of our neighbors were doing home building and remodeling, so thankfully we received a free supply of used landscaping bricks, wood, and even dirt.
In addition to the raised bed, we partially buried 3 kids wading pools, painted them tan, and made 3 small beds.
The final process of filling the raised bed took several months since we literally had to “wait for the leaves to fall”. But once they did, we had plenty!
We found free mulch for the yard at a local facility, and I thinned my multiplying succulents and reused the trimmings in the landscaping. Aloe is in the medicinal herb bed, vegetables are in the big raised bed, and the wading pools are planted with herbs and ingredients for salad.
Our recycled garden project cost little to nothing.
Every day I get buzzed by bees, birds, hummingbirds, and butterflies who check me out. Occasionally 2 hummingbirds sit in a tree, trying to determine which one owns the bird feeder, the sun ornament guards the tangerine tree, and flowers bloom. Life is good.
Happy Earth Month everyone! Practice shamanic gardening, preserve your Mother Earth, and Live Green and Prosper!