[permaculture] Toby's New Garden

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Sun Sep 19 11:21:58 EDT 2004

> Toby - I havent been on the list for a while. Where did you move to
> and what are you eating from your garden after 6 weeks? What did you
> do for fertility? Thanks -Allan

Hi, Allan et al. Here's the long answer (I seem unable to do any other kind;
like the guy says, sorry this is so long, I didn't have time to make it
shorter). We moved from our rural paradise in Southern Oregon to the heart
of Portland, OR, the state's biggest city (about 1.3 million people in the
metro area). Climate is wet winters/dry summers, usually mild frosts, and
more rain than my old home. We've gone from 10 acres to a 50' x 100' lot.
For better or for worse, most of our yard was bare soil/bark mulch and a
small bit of grass, and the only food plant is a nice old European prune
plum. Fortunately the previous owner left us their compost bin, mostly full
of finished compost. I'm letting design ideas sort themselves out in my mind
over the winter, but wanted to follow Holmgren's principle of "Get a Yield,"
or while you're waiting several years for your "big design" to mature, plant
some greens and radishes so in 3 weeks you can be rewarded for your work.

I fluffed up one small keyhole-shaped bed, having already learned that we
have a few inches of decent topsoil underlain by a brownish clay loam. In
went some compost and a little blood and bone meal, and a sprinkle of about
6 varieties of lettuce, 3 of kale, radishes, broccoli raab, several
mustards, arugula, salad green beets, cress, tatsoi, mizuna, and mache (some
seeds came from friends here). I popped in a French sorrel and a sea kale
from my old home. We had some nice rain in mid-August, unusual for Portland,
and in 3 weeks, we were eating. We are now overwhelmed by greens; the soil
is very fertile.

I only do this kind of intensive (both in labor and imported inputs) kind of
gardening in very limited areas, or in this case, in an "emergency," like
having moved to a yard with no garden. Most of the yard is now covered with
a foot of chipped tree trimmings, since I heard the sound of a big chipper
nearby, followed it to the source, and found that the crew were only too
happy to dump 8 yards of beautiful, leaf-filled chips in my driveway rather
than drive 30 minutes to the dump. They dropped off a 2nd load a few days
later, and now my neighbors have tuned into this resource, which is great
because my yard is full and the chips have already begun to compost into
soil. It seems that in this culture, resources like that are almost easier
to find than they are in rural areas.

We met all our near neighbors within a few days, and immediately, hearing I
was a displaced gardener, bags of zucchini, tomatoes, figs, peaches,
cucumbers, and beets began showing up at our door. I've been trading plums
and greens in return, plus some wheelbarrows of chips.

One interesting design note: I initially planned on planting all my favorite
fruit trees, and was wondering how I was going to fit them all into the
yard. But I quickly realized that my zone 2-3, where fruit trees go,
includes my near neighbors yards, since one mature tree provides much more
fruit than any of them can use and we all trade. So I do not have to plant
peaches, figs, pears, apricots, or apples, unless we call can use varieties
not available nearby. This is a bit of community joy I hadn't expected.

We are utterly loving the city, even after (or because of, in some ways) 10
years in the country. This is where permaculture needs to happen the most,
and in Portland, the seeds are there.


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