The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope. -Wendell Berry
We started our garden from scratch in March of 2013……….
By October 2013 had harvested over 1 ton of food!!!
Scroll down to watch the unfolding of Eden’s first year garden.
Turning the first soil
As soon as the soil was ready to till in the spring, I began by tilling the pasture grass in with a 5 HP tiller. If we had had a year or more to prepare the soil ahead of time we could have skipped the manual tillage by layering with alfalfa hay, manure and other organic matter. But because we rely on our garden to feed us, we weren’t willing to wait a year for food and went with the rototiller instead. It also helped to eradicate the grasses which , if not done early in the garden’s creation, can creep in and create a constant battle in the coming seasons.
We were blessed with a sandy, clay, loam- 17 feet deep!- but it had been years since it had been worked and the tilling was hard going.
Bringing in the big tiller
After going back and forth over the same ground 15 times and only getting down about 4″ deep, we decided to bring in the big tiller to get the cultivation done. I prefer to do things by hand if possible, but with a garden this size I was sure grateful for the big machinery.
First growing beds
Sunny built a sweet little gazebo in amongst the oak grotto in the center of the garden while Sequoia started laying out the first beds.
The beds are 4′ wide and each one was loosened with a digging fork to aerate down to a depth of 12 inches. Then I added 6 inches of alpaca manure from our local alpaca farm, kelp meal and Azomite for minerals, soft rock phospahte for phosphorus and some organic chicken manure for Nitrogen. Our soil test indicated that we had almost zero Nitrogen and Phosphorus!
Then about 4- 6″ of soil was dig from the 2′ wide paths to add to the top of the beds and voila!, beautiful raised beds. I have created gardens in many different locales and have used the raised bed system for 30 years with great success. People warned me not to raise the beds in arid New Mexico bcause the soil would dry out too quickly but with enough mulch and water they seem to be flourishing and healthier than the non-raised beds.
Notice our mountains of alpaca poop in the background waiting to be dug into the new growing beds; to a gardener this is “gold” at the end of the rainbow!
Here you can see garlic, carrots, beets, spinach, lettuce and peas in early June.
Straw mulch was placed all along the exposed sides of the raised beds to keep from losing precious moisture and nutrients until the plants grew tall enough to shade the soil.
The pond was situated 10 feet higher than the garden which gives us about 5-7 pounds of water pressure( 1 pound of pressure for every 2 feet in elevation). Enough to run some low pressure sprinklers and plenty for drip tape irrigating.
Heat loving plants like tomatoes and peppers were protected with walls of water and row covers( in the background)
This is a beautiful Peruvian plant called Yacon grown for it’s sweet tuber.
The roots can be eaten raw and taste like jicama. Or they can be boiled to a syrup and made into a sweetener that is good for diabetics or those on a low -glycemic diet.
A big part of the fun at Eden is finding new and unusual plants to fill unique micro-niches in the garden; tuning into the needs of the plants and the landscape and finding the perfect nook for all to feel at home and thrive.
We welcome volunteers in our garden– both the humans and the plants.Here we see some healthy barley that came through the goat manure and made itself right at home. The birds thought we planted it for them!
Diversity plays an important role in keeping a garden healthy. In keeping a community healthy for that matter, as well! Weeds can draw in good insects as well as draw nutrients up from deeper soil layers to make available for vegetables to utilize. They also shade the soil and create humus and benefit the soil web in a myriad of ways.
We start our vegetables from open-pollinated seeds so that we can save our own seeds to plant the following year. After a few generations of growing in the same soil , seeds and plants become more acclimated to our local micro-climate, therefore more vigorous and resistant to pests and disease.
Saving seeds also helps us to be more self-reliant and helps protect unique heirloom varieties that will keep our seed banks diverse.
Havinng lots of flowering plants in the garden also serves to attract beneficial insects who both pollinate and prey on insect pests. Not to mention the obvious….the color and beauty they add to the garden pallette.