Spring is in full swing and social media is full of posts about transplanting seedlings and general excitement about this year’s budding gardens. Conversations among gardeners are always involving complaints of aching backs and talk of which trowel best rips up weeds. “You look tired today” “Yes I was weeding my garden yesterday!” I over hear this with a smug look on my face because I haven’t weeded a single thing, and have already been harvesting greens for salads. I’ve been able to incorporate fresh foods into our dinners every night! All I need to do is strep outside of my door and a feast is there waiting for me.
That doesn’t mean there was no work involved but after the initial plantings and the first mulching the garden has pretty much cared for itself. Perennial plants are back again, and we are seeing the sons and daughters of the self seeding parents from last year. Each generation lives on and brings us countless hours of delight and wonderment. I haven’t planted a single annual herb in three years yet every season we have beautiful lush herbs like dill and cilantro. Seeds travel and fall wherever they please, and since we do not till they come up the next year right where they were meant to be (and sometimes in the most unusual of places!)
Cilantro and dill
You see, there are no artificial boundaries, straight rows, barriers, raised beds, or anything forced in our garden. Our friend Mortal Tree has be implementing his PASSIVE gardening technique for us and we are seeing with ease first hand success. His previous book here, inspired this poem-like blog post.
Now I am reading his new book Mastering The Growing Edge and wanted to share some highlights that inspired me to write this little blog post. Here are a few quotes that really stand out:
“It is weeds which are our best weapon against weeds”
“…by mastering the growing edge instead of grinding against it.”
“We are just beginning to realize that in our battle against weeds, we’ve been weeding out our greatest allies.”
I’ve been thinking a lot about the term “ally” and I think that perfectly describes the relationship one should have with the plants in a garden. An alliance forms when two parties aid each other. In this way you are allowing the plant to do what it is best at, and in turn it will help you achieve the goal of manipulating the landscape to suit your needs. In a way it is not a stereotypical garden at all, but rather it just so happens that these groups of plants happily co-existing are beneficial to you. They are flourishing because they are encouraged to live freely as they are. Instead of trying to place plants where they shouldn’t be, forcing them with struggle and dominance. This works perfectly with my own personal energy as I am a more gentle in nature, not very “hard” or “determined”.
There were a few chapters that stood out to me because they are utilized in our garden beds. The chapter about mulch brought back many memories of the mulching done to establish our beds. One of the first phrases my daughter said was “Daddy I wana help you MULCH!”. At age 2-3 she was helping carry handfuls of raked dead grass or freshly cut mulching plants to the garden beds. Not long after mulching, the soil that lies underneath is moist, rich and easily workable. It is its own living, breathing ecosystem that was achieved with no forceful tillage. At any moment you can peer under the mulch and see at least 2-4 worms wriggling around with glee.
Secondly we have the chapter on violets. This year the violets really took center stage in many parts of our lawn. We do not mow often and so in some areas the violets spring ahead of the grass and create their own little carpet among clover and creeping charlie. If we were constantly mowing and manicuring think of all the little flowers we would have missed out on. The patches of violets were such a welcome transition to the end of winter and beginning of spring. They really gave the feeling of magical little fairies sparkling in the twilight.
Pretty little violets sprinkled throughout our yard
And next we have mint! I say this with exasperated enthusiasm because we have seen how virulent mint can be. I have to say, I am wholeheartedly impressed with the tenacity and vigor of the chocolate mint we have growing (mixed with mojito mint in some areas). Its practically climbing up the walls and traveled through the cracks across a cement walkway to reach the soil on the other side. It does it’s job as a ground cover, and then some…. and then some more… and more!!
A very special (to me) variegated mint
Another notable contender: comfrey. Comfrey is used as nutrient rich mulch in our gardens and yet it stands beautiful and regal while it grows. Peaceful, mysterious, stoic? I’m not sure how to explain it, but this year we are really enjoying the aesthetics it brings to our landscape.
Comfrey standing tall
There is so much more that I could detail here, but I don’t want to spoil too much of the book. As you can see we are really enjoying this method of gardening. I almost am not sure what to call it because it is more than just “gardening” but more of landscape creation. It is our intent to have most of the plants be edible or supportive to the edible plants in some way. Its all about aesthetics, feeling, energy, synergy. I am no experienced gardener and I have hardly done any of the work, but I have fully enjoyed all of the steps along the way.
“The choice is yours to change the growing edge of your world.”
-Luke Simon, “Mastering The Growing Edge”